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Cornell University Library 
PR5332.L81 1901 


Memoirs of the life of Sir Walter Scott, 

3 1924 014 157 246 

The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 

CambrtOge (Coition 






From the tniniature by Kay 









Ciie KtDeriitlie |)res£i, Cambtilrse 




Lockhaet's Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, 
Bart., which divides with Boswell's Life of Johnson the 
honor of leading all lives of English men of letters, was 
first published in seven volumes in 1837-1838. A second 
edition, with some corrections, some slight revisions, and 
a few additions, mostly in the form of notes, was pub- 
lished in 1839, and this has remained ever since the stan- 
dard edition. Later, in 1848, Lockhart prepared, at the 
request of the publishers of that work, a condensation of 
his magnum opus, and took that occasion to add a few 
facts bearing upon the Life which had occurred since 
the original publication, and a few comments which it 
would not have been in good taste to make in the first 
instance. Throughout his original work, Lockhart, with 
all his openness of speech, yet refrained from certain per- 
sonal references, the subjects of which were too recent 
for remark, and he concealed many names under the dis- 
guise of initials. 

Since the edition of 1839 there have been many issues 
of this great work on both sides of the Atlantic. As late 
as 1861, Messrs. Ticknor and Fields, predecessors of the 
present publishers of the work, issued an edition in nine 
volumes, and took occasion to insert some material from 
Lockbart's abridgment. They prefaced the edition, which 
they dedicated to Nathaniel Hawthorne, with a brief sketch 
of Lockhart. 


Neither these publishers nor any others, so far as we 
know, have ever done more than reprint the original 
work, save for the slight modification just mentioned. 
Meanwhile for the past sixty years, and more especially 
during the pftst ' twenty years, a crowd of books has been 
published throwing light on Lockhart's great subject. 
Memoirs, reminiscences, editions of Scott's writings, lit- 
erary studies, articles in reviews and magazines have 
added materially to our knowledge not only of Scott, but 
of many others of the personages who throng the chapters 
of Lockhart's work. Lockhart himself has been made 
the subject of a generous biography, and it would seem 
as though, lasting as is the fame of the lAfe, its necessary 
silences were becoming every year more conspicuous. 

Accordingly, the present publishers resolved to issue an 
edition which should repair the damage which Time had 
wrought, and they entrusted the editing to Miss Susan 
M. Francis, who through her long conversance with the 
original work, and her familiarity with the literature 
which has grown up about Scott, as well as her knowledge 
of the more or less obscure sources of information, was 
peculiarly competent not only to do the service of Old 
Mortality, but to set in order the inscriptions still to be 
added to the stones of Scott's associates. 

The principle upon which Lockhart's Scott is now 
edited may be stated in very few words. The original 
work is reprinted without change, except that initials have 
been extended to full names in a great many instances, 
obvious printers' errors corrected, and Scott's journals 
revised to conform with the authoritative edition by Mr. 
David Douglas. Then, the text has been annotated by 
fuller accounts of many of the persons to whom Scott or 
Lockhart refer, and very many passages have been ex- 



panded or iUuminated by extracts from Scott's lej;ters and 
journals, and from a variety of books and articles bearing 
upon the subject.: In a number of instances the narrative 
of persons who were living when Lockhart wrote has been 
carried forward to show their after career. All the editor's 
work is indicated by its enclosure in brackets. Lpckhart's 
later notes are indicated by the years 1839, 1845, and 
1848, enclosed in parentheses. 

In making this annotation recourse has been had first 
of all to the editions of ScQtt'^j familiar Letters and 
Journal, so thoroughly and admirably edited by Mr. 
David Douglas. No one who undertakes to work at , the 
life of Scott fails to confess a deep obligation to this gentle- 
man. Not only so, but Mr. Douglas has repeatedly come 
to the editor's aid in settling those nice points which arise 
in any piece of careful editing. Hig own notes when used 
always bear his initials at the close. Lang's Life and 
Letters of Loclchart has also been in frequent use, and of 
general works The Dictionary of National Biography has 
been in constant demand. The more one uses it the more 
one comes to value the accuracy of its statements, and the 
thoroughness with which its subjects have been treated. 
Of the very large number of memoirs and reminiscences 
consulted, mention may be made of Selections from the 
Manuscripts of Lady Louisa Stuart, by permission of 
Messrs. Harper and Brothers, the American publishers of 
the work ; Mrs. Oliphant's William Blackwood and his 
Sons, and the other two works on the great publishing 
houses, Smiles's Memoir of John Murray and Archibald 
Constable and his Literary Correspondents; Carruth- 
ers's Abbotsford JVbtanda and the Catalogue of the Scott 
Centenary Exhibition have been referred to, and the 
memoirs and reminiscences connected with the names of 


Maria Edgeworth, Washington Irving, Leslie, George 
Ticknor, Haydon, Byron, Moore, Charles Mayne Young, 
Wordsworth, Crabbe, Lord Cockburn, Miss Terrier, Mrs. 
Eemble, and others ; while for the later history of the 
Scott family, the Life of James Hope- Scott has been 
serviceable. The attentive reader wiU readily understand 
that the editor has also gone to numberless books and 
magazine articles for the proper confirmation of petty 
facts and the assurance of accuracy. 

To complete the worth of this edition, the publishers 
have taken pains to illustrate it abundantly with portraits 
and other pictures, and to obtain these they have gone as 
far as possible in every case to the original sources. The 
result is a great English classic of abiding value, faith- 
fully reproduced, and so supplemented by editorial and 
artistic labor as to be brought up to date in all essential 

4 Fare Street, Bostok. 
Autumn, 1901. 



Lockhaet's Peefacb xxxvii 

Oeiginal Dedioation xli 



I. Memoir of the Early Life of Sir "Walter Scott, 

written by himself 1 

II. Illustrations of the Autobiographical Fragment. 

— Edinburgh. — Sandy-Knowe. — Bath. — Pres- 
tonpans. 1771-1778 51 

III. Illustrations of the Autobiography continued. — 
High School of Edinburgh. — Residence at Kelso. 
1778-1783 78 

IV. Illustrations of the Autobiography continued. — 
Anecdotes of Scott's College Life. 1783-1786 . 104 

V. Illustrations continued. — Scott's Apprenticeship 
to his Father. — Excursions to the Highlands, etc. 

— Debating Societies. — Early Correspondence, 
etc.— WiUiamina Stuart. 1786-1790 ... 116 

VI. Illustrations continued. — Studies for the Bar. — 
Excursion to Northumberland. — Letter on Flod- 
deu Field.— Call to the Bar. 1790-1792 , . 149 


VII. First Expedition into Liddesdale. — Study of 
German. — Political Trials, etc. — Specimen of 
Law Papers. — Bilrger's Lenore translated. — 
Disappointment in Love. 1792-1796 . . . 169 

VIII. Publication of Ballads after Bttrger. — Scott 
Quartermaster of the Edinburgh Light Horse. 

— Excursion to Cumberland. — Gilsland Wells. 

— Miss Carpenter. — Marriage. 1796-1797 227 

IX. Early Married Life. — Lasswade Cottage. — 

Monk Lewis. — '■ Translation of Goetz von Ber- 

lichingen, published. — Visit to London. — 

House of Aspen. — Death of Scott's Father. 

. — First Original Ballads. — Glenfinlas, etc. 

— Metrical Fragments. — Appointment to the 
Sheriffship of Selkirkshire. 1798-1799 , . 265 

X. The Border Minstrelsy in Preparation. — Rich- 
ard Heber. — John Leyden. -^ — William Laid- 
law. — James Hogg. — Correspondence with 
George Ellis. — Publication of the two first 
Volumes of the Border Minstrelsy. 1800-1802. 297 

XI. Preparation of Volume III. of the Minstrelsy — 
and of Sir Tristrem. — Correspondence with 
Miss Seward and Mr. Ellis. — Ballad of the 
Reiver's Wedding. — Commencement of The 
Lay of the Last Minstrel. — Visit to London 
and Oxford. — Completion of The Minstrelsy 
of the Scottish Border. 1802-1803 . . . 324 

XII. Contributions to the Edinburgh Review. — Pro- 
gress of the Tristrem — and of The Lay of the 
Last Minstrel.— Visit of Wordsworth. — Pub- 
lication of Sir Tristrem. 1803-1804 . . . 356 

XIII, Removal to Ashestiel. — Death of Captain Rob- 
ert Scott. — Mungo Park. Completion and 

Publication of The Lay of the Last Minstrel. 
1804-1805 388 


XIV. Partnership with James Ballantyne. — Literary- 
Projects. — Edition of the British Poets. — Edi- 
tion of the Ancient English Chronicles, etc., etc. 

— Edition of Dryden undertaken. — Earl Moira 
Commander of the Forces in Scotland. — Sham 
Battles. — Articles in the Edinburgh Review. — 
Commencement of Waverley. — Letter on Os- 
sian. — Mr. Skene's Reminiscences of Ashestiel. 

— Excursion to Cumberland. — Alarm of Inva- 
sion. — Visit of Mr. Southey. — Correspondence 

on Dryden with Ellis and Wordsworth. 1805 . 421 

XV. AfBair of the Clerkship of Session. — Letters to 
Ellis and Lord Dalkeith. — Visit to London. — 
Earl Spencer and Mr. Fox. — Caroline, Prin- 
cess of Wales. — Joanna Baillie. — Appointment 
as Clerk of Session. — Lord Melville's Trial. — 
Song on his Acquittal. 1806 462 

Note. — The frontispiece portrait of Sir Walter Scott is from the min- 
iature hy Kay (1777) in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. 

The reproduction of Ashestiel, which faces the frontispiece, is from the 
" Homes and Haunts of Sir Walter Scott," by permission of the publishers. 

The portrait of John Gibson Lockhart, page xiii, is after the painting 
by Henry W. Pickersgill, R. A. 

After the painting by Pickersgill 




JoHK Gibson Lockhaet was born ia the manse of 
Cambusnethan, July 14, 1794. His father, the Eev. 
John Lockhart, was twice married, and of the children of 
his first wife only one, William, the laird of Milton-Lock- 
hart, reached manhood. The second Mrs. Lockhart was 
Elizabeth, the daughter of the Eev. John Gibson, minis- 
ter of St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, and that clergyman's 
namesake was her eldest child. " Every Scottishman has 
his pedigree," says Scott in his fragment of Autobiogra- 
phy, and there is no lack of interest in the honorable one 
of his son-in-law, from the days of Simon Locard of 
the Lee, in the county of Lanark, who was knighted by 
Eobert the Bruce, and after his king's death sailed with 
the good Lord James Douglas, who was bearing his mas- 
ter's heart to the Holy Land, — the heart which Locard 
rescued from the Moors, when Douglas fell fighting in 
Spain, and brought back to Scotland with Lord James's 
body. Then the Locards added to their armorial bear- 
ings a heart within a fetterlock, and took the name of 
Lockhart. From Sir Stephen Lockhart of Cleghorn, a 
man of note in the court of James III., was descended 
Robert Lockhart of Birkhill, who fought for the Cove- 
nant, and led the Lanarkshire Whigs at the battle of 
Bothwell Brig. 


William Lockhart, the Covenanter's grandson, married 
Violet Inglis, the heiress of Corehouse. The Eev. John 
Lockhart was the younger of their two sons. From his 
father Lockhart seems to have inherited his scholarly- 
tastes, while in person he appears to have resembled his 
mother ; to both he was always the most affectionate and 
devoted of sons. His warmth of feeling, even in child- 
hood, as well as his constitutional reserve, is shown by 
his intense suffering at the loss of a younger brother and 
sister, who died within a few days of each other. He did 
not weep like the rest of the children, or show other sign 
of emotion, but fell seriously ill, and was long in recov- 
ering from the shock. From the first he was a delicate 
child, and the removal of the family from country to town, 
when he was in his second year, probably did not tend to 
strengthen him. Dr. Lockhart became minister of the 
CoUege Kirk in Glasgow, and his son in due time en- 
tered the High School there. In after-years his school- 
mates remembered him as a very clever, but hardly a dili- 
gent boy. Though frequently absent from illness (one of 
these childish maladies caused the deafness in one ear from 
which he suffered), he always kept his place at the head of 
his class. " He never seemed to learn anything when the 
class was sitting down," wrote a fellow-pupil, " and on 
returning after one of his illnesses, he of course went to 
the bottom, but we had not been five minutes up when he 
began to take places, and he invariably succeeded, some- 
times before the class was dismissed at noon, in getting 
to the top of it again." 

In 1805, when he had but just entered his twelfth year, 
Lockhart matriculated at the University of Glasgow. 
More than fifty years later, two of his classmates wrote 
their recollections of the boy student, — recollections vivid 
enough to show how strong an impression he made on his 
companions. He still was somewhat delicate in health. 


and kept a high position in his studies more from ability 
than assiduity. A strong sense of the ludicrous, allied 
with a turn for satire, was already one of his marked 
traits. At the close of the session of 1805-6 a little in- 
cident shows the admiration felt for him by some of his 
companions. He had been disappointed in not obtaining 
a certain Latin prize, and several of his friends, sharing 
his feeling, determined to present to him a testitaonial. 
He was very fond of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, then 
a new book, so the lads procured a splendidly bound copy, 
and, at their suggestion, the Professor, at the public dis- 
tribution of prizes, gave the volume with warm commen- 
dations to Johannes Lockhart, as a prize the students 
had themselves provided. It was not till Lockhart joined 
the logic class (at the age of thirteen), that he suddenly 
outstripped all his companions, whom he later astonished 
by the amount of Grreek which heprofessedat the Black- 
stone examination. It was thought a profession of rea- 
sonable amount " when a student intimated his willingness 
to translate and be examined critically on Anacreon, two 
or three of Lucian's dialogues, extracts from Epictetus, 
Bion, and Moschus, and perhaps a book or two of Homer." 
" But," declares one of his former fellow-students, " Lock- 
hart professed the whole Iliad and Odyssey and I know 
not how much besides." His brilliant success on this 
occasion led to his being offered one of the Snell Exhibi- 
tions to Oxford, — an offer which was accepted after some 
hesitation on account of his youth. He was not yet fif- 
teen, and still wore the round jacket of a schoolboy when 
he was entered at Balliol College. 

One of Lockhart's closest friends at Oxford and ever 
after, Mr. J. H. Christie, describes the young student at 
this time : " Lockhart immediately made his general tal- 
ents felt by his tutor and his companions. His most 
remarkable characteristic, however, was the exuberant 


spirits which found vent in constant flashes of merriment 
brightened and pointed with wit and satire at once droll 
and tormenting. Even a lecture-room was not exempt 
from these irrepressible sallies ; and our tutor, who was 
formal and wished to be grave, but had not the gift of 
gravity, never felt safe in the presence of his mercurial 
pupil. Lockhart with great readiness comprehended the 
habits -and tone of the new society in which he was placed, 
and was not for a moment wanting in any of its require- 
ments ; but this adaptive power never interfered with the 
marked individuality of his own character and bearing. 
He was at once a favorite and formidable. In those days 
he was an incessant caricaturist ; his papers, his books, 
and the walls of his rooms were crowded with portrai- 
tures of his friends and himself — so like as to be unmis- 
takable, with an exaggeration of any peculiarity so droll 
and so provoking as to make the picture anything but 
flattering to the self-love of its subject. This propensity 
was so strong in him that I was surprised when in after- 
life he repressed it at once and forever. In the last 
thirty years of his life I do not think he ever drew a car- 
icature." ^ 

In these days Lockhart read not only Greek and Latin, 
but French, Italian, and Spanish. German interested 
him later. At Balliol he formed some friendships which 
ended only with life ; no man was ever truer to his early 
friends than he, and few have had friends more loyal.^ 

^ Quarterly Beview, vol. cxvi. p. 447. 

2 To one of these friends, the Eev. George Rohert Gleig, Chaplain Gen- 
eral of the Forces, we owe the only authoritative acconnt of Lockhart's 
early life. This is to he found in the interesting article, the Life ofLock- 
harf, in the Quarterly Review for Octoher, 1864. Like his friend, Mr. 
Gleig was educated at Glasgow University, was a, Snell Scholar, and was 
an early contrihutor to Blackwood and to Fraser. Later he wrote for hoth 
the great Reviews. He was long the last survivor of the early Blackwood 
and Fraser groups. He died in 1888, in his ninety-third year. The name 
which stood next to Lockhart in the alphabetical arrangement of the first 


He gained his first class in 1813 — lie was not yet nine- 
teen — and returned to his father's house in Glasgow, 
which he was to leave two years later for Ej^inburgh, 
there to read law and begin the literary work which was to 
prove the real business of his life. He became acquainted 
with William Blackwood, who, when the young advocate 
was about to visit Germany in the vacation of 1817, 
enabled him to undertake the then toilsome and expen- 
sive journey by paying liberally, not less than ^6300, it 
is said, for a translation to be made later. Schlegel's 
Lectures on the History of Literature was the work 
Lookhart selected, and of this incident Mr. Gleig says : 
" Though seldom communicative on such subjects, he 
more than once alluded to the circumstance in after-life, 
and always in the same terms. ' It was a generous act 
on Ebony's part, and a bold one too ; for he had only my 
word for it that I had any acquaintance at all with the 
German language ! '" It was a generous act, and also one 
showing keen perception on the part of the publisher. At 
this time began Lockhart's intimacy with John Wilson, 
with whom he was so largely to share the achievements, 
glorious and inglorious, of Mr. Blackwood's magazine in 
its reckless youth. Unfortunately, the older and more 
experienced writer was no safe guide for his brilliant but 
very young co-worker, still with a boy's fondness for mis- 
chief and a dangerous wit, to which the almost sublime 
self-complacency of the dominant Whig coteries would 
offer abundant opportunities of exercise. Lockhart was 
not a sinner above others, but in the end he was made 
something like the scapegoat of all the offenders, whose 
misdeeds, occasionally serious enough, are sometimes in 
view of the journalistic and critical amenities then prevail- 

class was that of Henry Hart MUman, his dear friend in later life, and 
one of his most constant and valued allies in the Quarterly, His corre- 
spondence with MUman forms an interesting featnre of Lang's Life. 


ing in the organs of both parties hardly so heinous as to 
account for the excitement that attended them. 

What J^ockhart thought of these youthful literary 
escapades in his sober and saddened middle age is shown 
in a letter written in 1838 : " I was a raw boy who had 
never before had the least connection with politics or con- 
troversies of any kind, when, arriving in Edinburgh in 
October, 1817, I found my friend John Wilson (ten 
years my senior) busied in helping Blackwood out of a 
scrape he had got into with some editors of his Magazine, 
and on Wilson's asking me to try my hand at some squib- 
beries in his aid, I sat down to do so with as little malice 
as if the assigned subject had been the Court of Pekin. 
But the row in Edinburgh, the lordly Whigs having con- 
sidered persiflage as their own fee-simple, was really so 
extravagant that when I think of it now the whole story 
seems wildly incredible. Wilson and I were singled out 
to bear the whole burden of sin, though there were abun- 
dance of other criminals in the concern ; and by and by, 
Wilson passing for being a very eccentric fellow, and I 
for a cool one, even he was allowed to get off compara- 
tively scot-free, while I, by far the youngest and least 
experienced of the set, and who alone had no personal 
grudges against any of Blackwood's victims, remained 
under such an accumulation of wrath and contumely as 
would have crushed me utterly, unless for the buoyancy 
of extreme youth. I now think with deep sadness of the 
pain my jokes and jibes inflicted on better men than 
myself, and I can say that I have omitted in my mature 
years no opportunity of trying to make reparation where I 
really had been the offender. But I was not the doer of 
half the deeds set down to my account, nor can I, in the 
face of much evidence printed and imprinted, believe that, 
after all, our Ebony (as we used to call the man and his 
book) had half so much to answer for as the more regu- 


lar artillery which the old Quarterly played incessantly, 
in those days, on the same parties. ... I believe the only 
individuals whom Blackwood ever really and essentially 
injured were myself and Wilson." ^ 

In May, 1818, occurred the day, memorable to Lock- 
hart, when he first met Scott, who later invited him to 
visit Abbotsford. The meeting and visit have been de- 
scribed by Lockhart, as he alone could do it ; but he does 
not tell how speedily he won the regard and confidence of 
the elder writer, feelings that were constantly to grow 
warmer and stronger as the years went on. Scott heartily 
welcomed Peter's Letters to his Kinsfolk the next year, 
those clever, vivid, and apparently harmless sketches of 
the Edinburgh of that day, — literary, artistic, legal, 
clerical, — which caused an outcry not now to be under- 
stood. In April, 1820, Lockhart and Sophia Scott were 
married, — a perfect marriage in its mutual love and trust. 
How willingly Sir Walter gave the daughter, so peculiarly 
dear to him, to the husband of her choice, his letters to 
his intimate correspondents show ; and how fortunate the 
union was to be for him in its results, he seems almost to 
have divined. It gave him not only the most affectionate 
and devoted of sons, — such love was already his, — but 
also the most complete comprehension and sympathy in 
his home circle. And all the rare literary gifts which he 
so early discerned and so heartily admired in his young 
friend, informed by delicate insight, loving knowledge, 
and a keen intelligence, were to be employed to make him 
known to the world, so that the great author should be 
loved even above his works. 

In the next few years, spent at Edinburgh and at 

Chiefswood, years that Lockhart was to remember as the 

happiest of his life, he did much literary work, beside 

the occasional articles for Blackwood. Valerius was pub- 

1 Lang's lAfe of Lockhart, vol. i. pp. 128-130. 


lished in 1821, — the story of a visitor from Britain to 
Eome in the time of the persecution of the Christians 
under Trajan. It is admirably well written, and reads 
exactly like what it professes to be, — a translation from 
the Latin. "I am quite delighted with the reality of your 
Eomans," wrote Scott to the author. But the very cor- 
rectness of the studies makes them seem remote and cold 
to the ordinary reader.^ A little later, appeared by far 
the best of Lockhart's novels. Some Passages in the Life 
of Mr. Adam Blair, Minister of the Gospel at Cross 
Meikle. A story of the temptation and fall of a good 
man, which his father told one day after dinner, sug- 
gested this tale, which is written with force and feeling, 
a passion that is still glowing, and a pathos which can 
still move, while there are both strength and delicacy of 
touch in the character-drawing. Eeginald Dalton was pub- 
lished in 1823, and was at the time a decided success ; 
but these somewhat exaggerated sketches of Oxford life 
are now chiefly interesting for the glimpses of personal 
experience to be found in the early chapters. Matthew 
Wald followed in 1824, and was the last novel written 
by Lockhart. Scott characterized it succinctly as " full 
of power, but disagreeable, and ends vilely ill," a kind of 
tale which had not yet become popular. There is power 
in the description of an ever growing selfishness and 
unrestrained passion ending in madness ; but the story is 
ill constructed, and, despite some vigorous and graphic 
passages, has not real vitality. 

^ It has heen said of Valerius, that it " contains as much knowledge of 
its period, and that knowledge as accurate, as would furnish out a long 
and elaborate German treatise on a, martyr and his time ; " so that, 
whether the report that reached its author, that the noTel had been used in 
Harrard College as a handbook, was correct or no, it would scarcely have 
been a misuse of the book. It ia certain that it was speedily appropriated 
by an American publisher, and we have a traditional knowledge of its 
having been much read and admired in certain Kew England circles. 


Lockhart edited a new edition of Don Quixote in 1822, 
and the next year published his Ancient Spanish Ballads, 
most of which had been previously printed in Black- 
wood's Magazine. This was the first of his books to 
bear his name, which the volume, winning wide and en- 
during success, made well known. Some competent critics 
have agreed with Scott in regarding the translations as 
" much finer than the originals," but, however this may 
be, there is no question whatever as to the excellence 
of the ballads in their English form. They have vigor 
and swiftness of movement, grace and picturesqueness, 
simplicity and spontaneity. And there are exquisite lyrics 
amongst them, witness The Wandering Knight's Song. 
Mr. Lang has made a few selections from Lockhart's 
scattered verse in Blackwood as further illustrations of 
his poetic gift, — a number of admirable stanzas (in the 
character of Wastle) in the ottava rima of Whistlecraft 
and Beppo (1819) ; the best known of his comic poems, 
Captain Paton's Lament ; and some lines from a transla- 
tion in hexameters of the twenty-fourth book of the Biad, 
that appeared as late as 1843, which must have sent more 
than one reader to the magazine, and made them echo the 
biographer's words, that " Lockhart had precisely the due 
qualifications for a translator, in sympathy, poetic feel- 
ing, and severe yet genial taste, and could have left a 
name for a popular, yet close and spirited version of the 
Iliad," had he not, after this single anonymous publica- 
tion, abandoned his half-formed project. As one of his 
friends wrote with great truth, " Lockhart was guilty of 
injustice to bis own surpassing powers. With all his pas- 
sion for letters, with all the ambition for literary fame 
which burnt in his youthful mind, there was still his shy- 
ness, fastidiousness, reserve. No doubt he might have 
taken a higher place as a poet than by the Spanish 
Ballads, as a writer of fiction than by his novels. These 


seem to have been thrown off by a sudden uncontrollable 
impulse to relieve the mind of its fulness, rather than as 
works of finished art or mature study. They were the 
flashes of a genius which would not be suppressed ; no one 
esteemed them more humbly than Lockhart, or, having 
once oast them on the world, thought less of their fame." ^ 
The early years of Lockhart's married life were so 
intimately connected with the life of Scott as to need no 
chronicle here. The young advocate, with many of the 
qualities essential to the making of a great lawyer, lacked 
one most needful to his branch of the profession, facility 
as a public speaker ; his extreme shyness would account 
for this. As he said at the farewell dinner given to him 
by his friends in Edinburgh : " You know as well as I, 
that if I had ever been able to make a speech, there 
would have been no cause for our present meeting." So 
literature had become more and more his occupation, — 
it became entirely so when, in the autumn of 1826, he 
accepted the editorship of the Quarterly Review, — a 
very responsible and distinguished post for so young a 
man, when the position of the Review at that time, in 
politics, literature, and society, is considered. Such news- 
papers as were in a few years to become powerful in the 
world of cultivated (and respectable) readers were as 
yet, relatively speaking, in an undeveloped state. Editor 
of the Quarterly, he was to remain, till hopelessly im- 
paired health brought an end to his labors, nearly twenty- 
eight years later. During these years he contributed 
more than a hundred articles to the Review, on the great- 
est possible variety of topics, — he could write on every- 
thing, from poetry to dry-rot, it was said. He was that 
rare thing in our race, a born critic ; but he did not use 

^ From the interesting obituary notice in the Zondon Times for Decem- 
ber 9, 1854, supposed to have been written by Dean MUman and Lady 


the work criticised as a text for a discourse of his own ; 
but of deliberate choice, it would seem, kept closely to 
his author. So, many of his papers are simply admirable 
reviews written for the day, not essays for future readers. 
But, as one turns the pages of the Quarterly, how alive 
some of the most transient of these articles seem, in com- 
parison with the often excellent matter in which they are 
embedded ! The clear, forcible style, the keen wit, the 
thorough workmanship, are never wanting. As would be 
expected, there is permanent interest in the biographical 
studies ; of these, one of the most interesting and impres- 
sive was fortunately republished in another form. 

As a biographer this variously accomplished man of let- 
ters was to show a gift that can almost be called unique. 
His Life of Burns, published in 1828, was written when 
the Scotland of the poet was still known to all his mature 
countrymen, though it was too early for the thorough- 
going scrutiny into every detail of his history practised 
by later writers ; but, setting that consideration aside, 
the sympathy, intelligence, good taste, fairness, and above 
all, the sanity of the work, to say nothing of its admirable 
literary quality, have given it a position by itself, which 
it is not likely to lose. This memoir is not an over-large 
book, but the Life of Theodore Hook — a reprint of a 
Quarterly Review article written in 1843 — is one of the 
smallest of volumes, yet it is written with so fine an art, 
the presentment of its subject, if rapidly sketched, is so 
vivid, that the reader feels no sense either, of crowded 
incidents or large omissions; with this biographer the 
story is of perfect proportion, whether it fiUs seven vol- 
umes or one, or does not extend beyond the limits of a 
brochure. Nothing Lockhart did was ever in the smallest 
degree slovenly or careless, but his admirable workman- 
ship is specially evident in the Life of Scott. The skill 
is masterly with which the immense mass of material has 


been handled, making letters, diaries, extracts, and nar- 
rative one harmonious whole, with never an occasional 
roughness to cause the ordinary reader fully to realize the 
smoothness of the road he is traversing. The absolute 
modesty and freedom from self-consciousness of the author 
— the editor, he calls himself — in telling a tale of which 
for a number of years he formed a part, is as striking as 
it is rare. He is one of the actors in a great drama ; if 
it be necessary now and then that he should come to the 
front, he does it simply and naturally — that is all. Al- 
ways and everywhere the hero is the central figure to 
whose full presentation all else is subsidiary. There is 
no need to speak of the faultlessness of the style, or of 
the deep but always manly feeling with which the more 
intimate details of the story are told ; effusiveness or sen- 
timentality was as alien to Lockhart as to Scott, and for 
these reasons no familiarity or change in literary fashions 
can make the matchless closing pages less moving ; they 
are of the things that remain. 

In January, 1837, Lockhart wrote a letter to Wil- 
liam Laidlaw, of singular autobiographic interest. After 
thanking his friend for a letter and a present of ptarmigan, 
"both welcome as remembrances of Scotland and old 
days," he says : — 

" The account you give of your situation at present 
is, considering how the world wags, not unsatisfactory. 
Would it were possible to find myself placed in something 
of a similar locality, and with the means of enjoying the 
country by day and my books at night, without the neces- 
sity of dividing most of my time between the labors of the 
desk — mere drudge labors mostly — and the harassing 
turmoil of worldly society, for which I never had much, 
and nowadays have rarely indeed any relish! But my 
wife and children bind me to the bit, and I am well 
pleased with the fetters. Walter is now a tall and very 


handsome boy of nearly eleven years ; Charlotte a very 
winsome gypsy of nine, — both intelligent in the extreme, 
and both, notwithstanding all possible spoiling, as simple, 
natural and unselfish as if they had been bred on a hillside 
and in a family of twelve. Sophia is your old friend, — 
fat, fair, and by and by to be forty, which I now am, and 
over, God bless the mark ! but though I think I am wiser, 
at least more sober, neither richer nor more likely to be 
rich than I was in the days of Chiefswood and Kaeside, 

— after all, our best days, I still believe." 

He goes on to say that he has quite forsworn politics, 
over which he and his correspondent used sometimes to 
dispute, and has satisfied himself " that the age of Tory- 
ism is by forever." He remains " a very tranquil and in- 
different observer." 

" Perhaps, however, much of this equanimity as to pass- 
ing affairs has arisen from the call which has been made 
on me to live in the past, bestowing for so many months 
all the time I could command, and all the care I have 
really any heart in, upon the manuscript remains of our 
dear friend. I am glad that Cadell and the few others 
who have seen what I have done with these are pleased, 
but I assure you none of them can think more lightly of 
my own part in the matter than I do myself. My sole 
object is to do him justice, or rather to let him do himself 
justice, by so contriving it that he shall be as far as pos- 
sible, from first to last, his own historiographer ; and I 
have therefore willingly expended the time that would 
have sufficed for writing a dozen books on what will be no 
more than the compilation of one. A stern sense of duty 

— that kind of sense of it which is combined with the feel- 
ing of his actual presence in a serene state of elevation 
above all terrestrial and temporary views — will induce 
me to touch the few darker points in his life and character 
as freely as the others which were so predominant ; and 


my chief anxiety on the appearance of the book will be, 
not to hear what is said by the world, but what is thought 
by you and the few others who can really compare the 
representation as a whole with the facts of the case. I 
shall, therefore, desire Cadell to send you the volumes as 
they are printed, though long before publication, in the 
confidence that they will be kept sacred, while unpub- 
lished, to yourself and your own household ; and if you 
can give me encouragement on seeing the first and second, 
now I think nearly out of the printer's hands, it wiU be 
very serviceable to me in the completion of the others. I 
have waived all my own notions as to the manner of pub- 
lication, and so forth, in deference to the bookseller, who 
is still so largely our creditor, and, I am grieved to add, 
will probably continue to be so for many years to come. 

" Your letters of the closing period I wish you would 
send to me ; and of these I am sure some use, and some 
good use, may be made, as of those addressed to myself at 
the same time, which all, however melancholy to compare 
with those of the better day, have traces of the man. Out 
of these confused and painful scraps I think I can con- 
trive to put together a picture that will be highly touch- 
ing of a great mind shattered, but never degraded, and 
always to the last noble, as his heart continued pure and 
warm as long as it could beat." ^ 

A few weeks after this letter was written Mrs. Lock- 
hart was seized with an illness almost hopeless, it would 
seem, from the first. She died May 17, and this be- 
reavement overclouded the rest of her husband's life, 
though, after a few months' retirement to Milton-Lock- 
hart, he returned to his usual occupations, more devoted 
than ever to his children, their happiness and well-being 
having become the object of his life. Of his own rarely 
expressed feelings, we get a glimpse in a letter to Milman 
1 Abbotsford Notanda, pp. 190-193. 


written five years later (October, 1842), after he had at- 
tended the funeral of the wife of a friend. His corre- 
spondent at this time was mourning the loss of a daugh- 
ter. " I lived over the hour when you stood by me, — but 
indeed such an hour is eternally present. After that in 
every picture of life the central figure is replaced by a 
black blot ; every train of thought terminates in the same 
blank gulf. I see you have been allowing yourself to 
dwell too near this dreary region. Escape it while the wife 
of your youth is still by you ; in her presence no grief 
should be other than gentle." ^ 

When the earlier volumes of the Life had been pub- 
lished, Lockhart wrote to Haydon: "Your approbation of 
the Life of Scott is valuable, and might well console me 
for all the abuse it has called forth, both on him and me. 
I trusted to the substantial goodness and greatness of the 
character, and thought I should only make it more effective 
in portraiture by keeping in the few specks. I despise 
with my heels the whole trickery of erecting an alabaster 
image, and calling that a Man. . . . The work is now 
done, and I leave it to its fate. I had no personal object 
to gratify except, indeed, that I wished and hoped to please 
my poor wife." From a letter to Miss Edgeworth we 
learn that Mrs. Lockhart, who had been her husband's 
secretary for years in the preparation of the Memoirs, 
only lived to see, not to read, the first volume.^ It should 
be said here that the work was in every sense a labor of 
love on Lockhart's part, as all the profits of the book went 
towards the payment of Sir Walter's debt. 

One of the friends of these years was Carlyle, who had 
first met Lockhart at a Eraser dinner in 1831, and " ra- 
ther liked the man, and shall like to meet him again." 
Long afterward he was to vvrite of him as one " whom in 

1 Lang's Life of Lockhart, voL ii p. 214. 

2 Ibid. pp. 181, 182. 


the distance I esteemed more than perhaps he ever knew. 
Seldom did I speak to him ; but hardly ever without learn- 
ing and gaining something." Though the two men did 
not meet often, Carlyle became warmly attached to Lock- 
hart, and so much of their correspondence as has been pre- 
served forms one of the most interesting chapters in Mr. 
Lang's biography. Some of the letters show Carlyle in 
his best mood, and are peculiarly affectionate in tone. On 
one occasion he writes to Lockhart, as though sure of his 
sympathy, in a time of sorrow, and the reply, which came 
quickly, contains a part of a poem which was written in 
one of Lockhart's diary books in June, 1841, and cannot 
be omitted from any sketch of his life : — 

" When youthfnl faith has fled, 
Of loving^ take thy leaTe ; 
Be constant to the dead, 
The dead cannot deceive. 

" Sweet, modest flowers of springy. 
How fleet yonr balmy day ! 
And man's brief year can bring 
No secondary May. 

" No earthly burst again 

Of gladness out of gloom ; 
Fond hope and vision vain, 
Ungratef nl to the tomb I 


That on some solemn shore, 
Beyond the sphere of grief, 

Dear friends will meet once more. 

" Beyond the sphere of lime. 
And sin, and fate's control, 
Serene in changeless prime 
Of body and of soul. 

" That creed I fain wonld keep, 
That hope I '11 not forego ; 
Eternal he the sleep, 
Unless to waken so." * 
* " A few lines sent to him by a friend whom he rarely saw, who is sel- 


Carlyle earnestly urged that Lockhart's memoirs should 
be written while his old friends were yet living. Had this 
been done, not only would more of his letters have been 
preserved, to the gain of readers, but some misapprehen- 
sions regarding him might not have hardened into conven- 
tions.^ When the Lockharts left Scotland, Sir Walter 
wrote with much feeling to his good friend, Mrs. Hughes, 
soon to become and to remain their good friend as well, 
regarding the painf ulness of the separation, adding : " I 
wish to bespeak your affection for Lockhart. When you 
come to know him you will not want to be solicited, for I 
know you will love and understand him, but he is not 
easy to know or to be appreciated, as he so well deserves, 
at first ; he shrinks at a first touch, but take a good hard 
hammer (it need not be a sledge one), break the shell, 
and the kernel will repay you. Under a cold exterior, 
Lockhart conceals the warmest affections, and where he 
once professes regard he never changes." ^ Long after- 
wards, the son-in-law of Lockhart was to speak of the 

cloiu mentioned in connection with his history, yet who then and always 
was exceptionally dear to him. The lines themselves were often on his lips 
to the end of his own life, and will not be easily forgotten by any one 
who reads them." Fronde's Thomas Carlyle, vol. i. p. 249. 

1 There were nntmths as well ; some of them so grotesquely false as 
now to cause amusement rather than anger. An article on Lockhart in 
Temple Bar for June, 1895 (vol. ct. p. 176), touches on some of these 
legends, and pleads for a memoir. Gratitude is due to the anonymous 
writer, for he was, says Mr. Andrew Lang, " the onlie begetter " of that 
gentleman's biography of Lockhart, which gives so interesting a portrait of 
its subject, whom, it is plain, the author has learned to love. It is a book 
written with such sympathetic insight and genuine feeling, that it should 
hereafter make Lockhart known as he was. Mr. Lang was somewhat 
hampered (though not very seriously so) by an occasional lack of material, 
including want of access to the archives of the houses of Blackwood and 
Murray ; but this is partly set right by Mrs. Oliphant's admirable history 
of William Blachvood and His Sons, which gives as graphic a description 
of the early days of Maga and of Lockhart's connection therewith, indeed 
of all his relations to the magazine and its publishers, as could be desired. 

^ Scott's Familiar Letters, voL ii. p. 389. 


" depth and tenderness of feeling which he so often hid 
under an almost fierce reserve." This reserve, largely the 
result of constitutional shyness, was intensified by the 
sharp sorrows of his later life. In truth, as Mr. Leslie 
Stephen has said : " Lockhart was one of the men who 
are predestined to be generally misunderstood. He was 
an intellectual aristocrat, fastidious and over-sensitive, 
with very fine perceptions, but endowed with rather too 
hearty a scorn of fools as well as of folly. . . . The 
shyness due to a sensitive nature, was mistaken, as is so 
often the case, for supercilious pride, and the unwillingness 
to wear his heart on his sleeve, for coldness and want 
of sympathy. Such men have to be content with scanty 
appreciation from the outside." ^ Fortunately, there were 
those, not a few, who did not remain outside, and when 
any of these haVe written of their friend, there is a singu- 
lar agreement in their testimony. In every-day matters, 
in the performance of his editorial or social duties, he was 
unfailingly prompt, exact, and courteous. Never a rich 
man, nor ever extravagant in his personal expenditures, 
he was a most generous giver, especially to unfortunate 
members of his own craft. Inclined to be somewhat silent 
in large companies, among his friends he was a brilliant 
talker, though always a ready and willing listener. He 
asserted a power over society, Mr. Gleig has noted, " which 
is not generally conceded to men having only their per- 
sonal merits to rely upon. He was never the lion of a 
season, or of two seasons, or of more. He kept his place 
to the last." Being a gentleman and a man of sense, he 
neither over-valued nor under-valued the attractions of 
the great world. Regarding one of his personal attri- 
butes, all who saw him were of the same mind : his quite 
exceptional and very striking beauty of face and distinc- 
tion of 'bearing never failed to impress those brought into 

1 Studies of a Biographer, vol. ii. p. 1. 


contact with bim ever so slightly, even in the sad days 
when broken health and much sorrow had made him an 
old man long before his time. A proud man, he was 
absolutely without vanity, and had little tolerance for it in 
others ; undoubtedly, some measure of this quality would 
have made him a happier man, and one more ambitious 
of literary success. Almost from his boyhood he could 
greatly admire great work even while it was yet not only 
caviare to the general, but under the condemnation of 
the critical arbiters of the day. It was said of him, that 
as a critic, " high over every other consideration predom- 
inated the love of letters. If any work of genius appeared, 
Trojan or Tyrian, it was one to him — his kindred spirit 
was kindled at once, his admiration and sympathy threw 
off all trammel. He would resist rebuke, remonstrance, 
to do justice to the works of political antagonists — that 
impartial homage was at once freely, boldly, lavishly 

" The love of children," wrote Mr. Christie, " was 
stronger in Lockhart than I have ever known it in any 
other man. I never saw so happy a father as he was with 
his first-born child in his arms. His first sorrow was the 
breaking of the health of this child." There is no need 
here to tell the pathetic story of that brief life ; but the 
same devoted love which had watched over it, was given 
in full measure to the children who remained. Of the 
daughter, Mr. Gleig writes : " She was the brightest, 
merriest, and most affectionate of creatures ; and her mar- 
riage, in 1847, to Mr. James Hope, met her father's entire 
approval. He was satisfied that in giving her to Mr. 
Hope, he entrusted his chief earthly treasure to a tender 
guardian, and strove, in that reflection, to overshadow the 
thought that he must himself henceforth be to her an 
object of secondary interest only. She never voluntarily 
caused him one moment's pain. Nevertheless, it must not 


be concealed that the secession of Mr. and Mrs. Hope- 
Scott to the Eoman Catholic faith greatly distressed 
Lockhart, although he did full justice to the conscientious 
•motives by which they were actuated."^ His attitude is 
best shown in the letter written to Mr. Hope at this time, 
in which he says : " I had clung to the hope that you 
would not finally quit the Church of England, but am not 
so presumptuous as to say a word more on that step as 
respects yourself, who have not certainly assumed so heavy 
a responsibility without much study and reflection. As 
concerns others, I am thoroughly aware that they may 
count upon any mitigation which the purest intentions and 
the most generous and tender feelings on your part can 
bring. And I trust that this, the only part of yoiw con- 
duct that has ever given me pain, need not now, or ever, 
disturb the confidence in which it has been of late a prin- 
cipal consolaftion for me to live with my son-in-law." ^ 

Lockhart's letters show how well pleased he was with 
his daughter's marriage, though it left him alone in his 
home. His diary says of 1847 : " A year to me of very 
indifferent health and great anxieties. Charlotte's mar- 
riage the only good thing." The beginning of the year 
had been saddened by the death of his brother-in-law. Sir 
Walter Scott ; and the extravagance and waywardness of 
his son, now the laird of Abbotsford, had already greatly 
distressed the father and were to inflict more torturing 
anxiety and keener suffering as time went on. Walter 
Lockhart, in his happy, healthy boyhood, did not show 
the intellectual precocity of his elder brother ; but he was 
a handsome, intelligent, and winning lad, with no fore- 
shadowing of the recklessness of his later years. Mr. 
Lang, who can speak from knowledge, says : " Could all 
be known and told, it is not too much to say that Lock- 

1 Quarterly Seview, vol. cxvi. p. 475. 

2 Ornsby's Memoirs of J. B. Sope-Scott, vol. ii. p. 138. 


hart's fortitude during these last years, so black with 
affliction, bodily and mental, was not less admirable than 
that of Sir Walter Scott himself. Thus, the trials from 
which we are tempted to avert our eyes, really brought out 
the noblest manly qualities of cheerful endurance, of gen- 
tle consideration for all, who, being sorry for his sorrow, 
must be prevented from knowing how deep and incurable 
were his wounds." And it should be said that in these 
years Lockhart had to suffer that sharpest of griefs which 
happily Sir Walter never knew. 

Outwardly, Lockhart's . life went on much as usual, 
save that constantly failing health made editorial labors 
more fatiguing, and social relaxations less and less fre- 
quent. But in his letters there is little change ; nothing 
could overcome " a kind of intellectual high spirits when 
his pen was in his hand." His ill health is but slightly 
dwelt" upon, and only to his daughter is the ever present 
anxiety revealed. At last came a ray of hope to the 
father's heart, a reconciliation, and then Walter's sudden 
death. Sorely tried as it had been, the father's love had 
never weakened ; and after those inexpressibly sad days at 
Versailles, recorded with such self-restraint in his letters 
to his daughter, his health declined rapidly. On July 6, 
1853, he notes that his doctors agree that he must not 
attempt the next Eeview, and a few days later, he writes, 
" I suppose my last number of the Quarterly Review." 
He had never ceased to be an occasional contributor to 
Blackwood ; the pages in memory of its founder, which ap- 
peared in October, 1834, were from his pen, and in those 
days he still took pleasure in sometimes "making a 
Noctes." The annalist of the Blackwoods has given 
the last note to the publisher, written very near the end : — 

" Dear B., — If you think the enclosed worth a page, 
any time, they are at the service of Maga, from her very 
old servant, now released from all service, J. G. L." 


That service had lasted for more than the length of a 

Dean Boyle, in his interesting notes on Lockhart in his 
later life, recalls his remark : " If I had to write my Life 
of Scott over again, now, I should say more about his 
religious opinions. Some people may think passages in 
his novels conventional and commonplace, but he hated 
cant, and every word he said came from his heart." Of 
Lockhart's own religious opinions, Mr. Gleig writes : " A 
clergyman, with whom he had lived in constant intimacy 
from his Oxford days [probably the writer himself], was 
in the frequent habit, between 1851 and 1853, of calling 
upon Lockhart in Sussex Place, and taking short walks 
with him, especially in the afternoons of Sunday. With 
whatever topic their colloquy might begin, it invariably 
fell off, so to speak, of its own accord, into discussions 
upon the character and teachings of the Saviour;' upon 
the influence exercised by both over the opinions and 
habits of mankind ; upon the light thrown by them on 
man's future state and present destiny; and the points 
both of similitude and its opposite between the philoso- 
phy of Greece in its best days and the religion of Christ. 
Lockhart was never so charming as in these discussions. 
It was evident that the subject filled his whole mind, for 
the views which he enunciated were large, and broad, and 
most reverential — free at once from the bigoted dogma- 
tism which passes current in certain circles for religion 
. . . and from the loose, unmeaning jargon which is too 
often accepted as rational Christianity." ^ 

Lockhart spent the autumn and winter of 1853-54 in 
Eome, seeking too late for such amendment as rest and 
change might give. He was too ill to take much pleasure 
in his sojourn there, but his bodily feebleness did not 
dull his mental vigor, and it is characteristic that he at 
1 Quarterly Review, vol. cxvi. p. 475, 


once began to read Dante with Dr. Lucentini. He knew 
the language well, but wished to master the difficulties of 
the great poet, and so turned to the most accomplished 
of helpers, who naturally found Lockhart a brilKant and 
acute pupil, the mention of whom ever after roused the 
teacher to enthusiasm. No one, he declared, had ever put 
him so on his mettle. The invalid wrote long letters, 
descriptive of his Roman life, to his daughter, which show 
that he exerted himself much beyond the little strength 
that remained to him, and in the spring he gladly turned 
his face homeward. His resignation of his editorship was 
now made absolute, and, with greatly diminished income 
(his expenses in consequence of his son's follies had been 
heavy), he prepared to leave the house which had been so 
long his, and seek some new abiding-place. But his re- 
lease was at hand. In August, he went to Milton-Lock- 
hart, to the kind care of his brother's household, always 
writing as cheerfully as might be of himself to his daugh- 
ter. " The weather is delicious," he says in one of the 
last letters, " warm, very warm, but a gentle breeze keep- 
ing the leaves in motion all about, and the sun sheathed, 
as Wordsworth hath it, with a soft gray layer of cloud. I 
am glad to fancy you all enjoying yourselves (I include 
sweet M. M.) in this heavenly summer season. If people 
knew beforehand what it is to lose health, and all that 
can't survive health, they would in youth be what it is 
easy to preach; do you try'? I fancy it costs none of 
you very much effort either to be good or happy." In 
October he went . to Abbotsford, and it was at once seen 
that he was a dying man. He had gone one day in 
" most heavenly weather," from Milton - Lockhart to 
Douglas, where he had spent, in the old time, a memora- 
ble summer day with the stricken Scott, of which he has 
left us the record ; and he now desired to be driven about 
to take leave of the places on Tweedside, which then had 


been a part of his life. His little granddaughter was very 
dear to him in these last days. It is still remembered, 
how, as he lay ill, he loved to hear her running about the 
house. " It is life to me," he said. He died November 
25, 1854, and was buried, as he had desired, in Dry- 
burgh Abbey, " at the feet of Sir Walter Scotfc." 


LosDOir, December 20, 1836. 

In obedience to the instructions of Sir Walter Scott's 
last will, I had made some progress in a narrative of his 
personal history, before there was discovered, in an old 
cabinet at Abbotsford, an autobiographical fragment, 
composed by him in 1808 — shortly after the publication 
of his Marmion. 

This fortunate accident rendered it necessary that I 
should altogether remodel the work which I had com- 
menced. The first chapter of the following Memoirs 
consists of the Ashestiel fragment ; which . gives a clear 
outline of his early life down to the period of his call to 
the Bar — July, 1792. All the notes appended to this 
chapter are also by himself. They are in a handwriting 
very different from the text, and seem, from various cir- 
cumstances, to have been added in 1826. 

It appeared to me, however, that the author's modesty 
had prevented him from telling the story of his youth 
with that fulness of detail which would now satisfy the 
public. I have therefore recast my own collections as 
to the period in question, and presented the substance of 
them, in five succeeding chapters, as illustrations of his 
too brief autobiography. This procedure has been at- 
tended with many obvious disadvantages ; but I greatly 
preferred it to printing the precious fragment in an Ap- 

I foresee that some readers may be apt to accuse me of 

xxxviii PREFACE 

trenching upon delicacy in certain details of the sixth and 
seventh chapters in this volume. Though the circum- 
stances there treated of had no trivial influence on Sir 
Walter Scott's history and character, I should have been 
inclined, for many reasons, to omit them ; but the choice 
was, in fact, not left to me, — for they had been men- 
tioned, and misrepresented, in various preceding sketches 
of the Life which I had undertaken to illustrate. Such 
being the case, I considered it as my duty to tell the story 
truly and intelligibly ; but I trust I have avoided unneces- 
sary disclosures ; and, after all, there was nothing to dis- 
close that could have attached blame to any of the parties 

For the copious materials which the friends of Sir 
Walter have placed at my disposal I feel just gratitude. 
Several of them are named in the course of the present 
volume ; but I must take this opportunity of expressing 
my sense of the deep obligations under which I have been 
laid by the frank communications, in particular, of Wil- 
liam Clerk, Esq., of Eldin, — John Irving, Esq., W. S., 

— Sir Adam Ferguson, — James Skene, Esq., of Eubi- 
slaw, — Patrick Murray, Esq., of Simprim, — J. B. S. 
Morritt, Esq., of Eokeby, — WiUiam Wordsworth, Esq., 

— Robert Southey, Esq., Poet Laureate, — Samuel Rogers, 
Esq., — William Stewart Rose, Esq., — Sir Alexander 
Wood, — the Right Hon. the Lord Chief Commissioner 
Adam, — the Right Hon. Sir William Rae, Bart., — the 
late Right Hon. Sir William Knighton, Bart., — the 
Right Hon. J. W. Croker, — Lord Jeffrey, — Sir Henry 
Halford, Bart., G. C. H., — the late Major-General Sir 
John Malcolm, G. C. B., — Sir Francis Chantrey, R. A., 

— Sir David Wilkie, R. A., — Thomas Thomson, Esq., 
P. C. S., — Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, Esq., — William 
Scott, of Raeburn, Esq., — John Scott, of Gala, Esq., — 
Alexander Pringle, of Whytbank, Esq., M. P., — John 

PREFACE xxxix 

Swinton, of Inverleith-Place, Esq., — John Eichardson, 
Esq., of Fludyer Street, — John Murray, Esq., of Albe- 
marle Street, — Robert Bruce, Esq., Sheriff of Argyle, — 
Eobert Fergusson, Esq., M. D., — G. P. R. James, Esq., 

— William Laidlaw, Esq., — Robert Cadell, Esq., — 
John Elliot Shortreed, Esq., — Allan Cunningham, Esq., 

— Claud Russell, Esq.,^ — James Clarkson, Esq., of Mel- 
rose, — the late James Ballantyne, Esq., — Joseph Train, 
Esq., — Adolphus Ross, Esq., M. D., — William AUan, 
Esq., R. A., — Charles Dumergue, Esq., — Stephen Nich- 
olson Barber, Esq., — James Slade, Esq., — Mrs. Joanna 
Baillie, — Mrs. George Ellis, — Mrs. Thomas Scott, — 
Mrs. Charles Carpenter, — Miss Russell of Ashestiel, — 
Mrs. Sarah Nicholson, — Mrs. Duncan, Mertoun-Manse, 

— the Right Hon. the Lady Polwarth, and her sons, 
Henry, Master of Polwarth, the Hon. and Rev. WiUiam, 
and the Hon. Francis Scott. 

I beg leave to acknowledge with equal thankfulness the 
courtesy of the Rev. Dr. Harwood, Thomas White, Esq., 
Mrs. Thomson, and the Rev. Richard Garnett, all of Lich- 
field, and the Rev. Thomas Henry White, of Glasgow, in 
forwarding to me Sir Walter Scott's early letters to Miss 
Seward : that of the Lord Seaford, in entrusting me with 
those addressed to his late cousin, George Ellis, Esq. : and 
the kind readiness with which whatever papers in their 
possession could be serviceable to my undertaking were 
supplied by the Duke and Duchess of Buceleuch, and the 
Lord Montagu ; — the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland, 
and the Lord Francis Egerton ; — the Lord Viscount 
Sidmouth, — the Lord Bishop of Llandaff, — the Right 
Hon. Sir Robert Peel, Bart., — the Lady Louisa Stuart, 

— the Hon. Mrs. Warrender, and the Hon. Catharine Ar- 
den, — Lady Davy, — Miss Edgeworth, — Mrs. Maclean 
Clephane, of Torloisk, — Mrs. Hughes, of XJffington, — 
Mrs. Terry now (Richardson), — Mrs. Bartley, — Sir 


George Mackenzie of Coul, Bart., — the late Sir Francis 
Freeling, Bart., — Captain Sir Hugh Pigott, R. N., — the 
late Sir William Gell, — Sir Cuthbert Sharp, — the 
Very Eev. Principal Baird, — the Eev. William Steven, 
of Rotterdam, — the late Rev. James Mitchell, of Wooler, 

— Robert William Hay, Esq., lately Under Secretary of 
State for the Colonial Department^ — John Borthwick, of 
Crookstone, Esq., — John Cay, Esq., Sheriff of Linlith- 
gow, — Captain Basil Hall, R. N., — Thomas Crofton 
Croker, Esq., — Edward Cheney, Esq., — Alexander 
Young, Esq., of Harburn, — A. J. Valpy, Esq., — James 
Maidment, Esq., Advocate, — the late Donald Gregory, 
Esq., — Robert Johnston, Esq., of Edinburgh,^ — J. J. 
Masquerier, Esq., of Brighton, — Owen Rees, Esq., of 
Paternoster Row,^ — William Miller, Esq., formerly of 
Albemarle Street, — David Laing, Esq., of Edinburgh, 

— and John Smith the Youngest, Esq., of Glasgow. 


1 Bailis Johnston died 4th April, 1838, in his 73d year. 
^ Mr. Eees retired from the house of Longman and Co. at MidsnnuneT, 
1837, and died 5th Septemhei following, in his 67th year. 














ASKESTIEI,, April 2 

The present age has discovered a desire, or rather a 
rage, for literary anecdote and private history, that may 
be well permitted to alarm one who has engaged in a 
certain degree the attention of the public. That I have 
had more than my own share of popularity, my contem- 
poraries will be as ready to admit as I am to confess 
that its measure has exceeded not only my hopes, but 
my merits, and even wishes. I may be therefore permit- 
ted, without an extraordinary degree of vanity, to take 
the precaution of recording a few leading circumstances 
(they do not merit the name of events) of a very quiet 
and uniform life — that, should my literary reputation 
survive my temporal existence, the public may know 
from good authority aU that they are entitled to know of 
an individual who has contributed to their amusement. 

From the lives of some poets a most important moral 
lesson may doubtless be derived, and few sermons can 
be read with so much profit as the Memoirs of Burns, 
of Chatterton, or of Savage. Were I conscious of any- 


thing peculiar in my own moral cliaracter which could 
render such development necessary or useful, I would 
as readily consent to it as I would bequeath my body to 
dissection, if the operation could tend to point out the 
nature and the means of curing any peculiar malady. 
But as my habits of thinking and acting, as well as my 
rank in society, were fixed long before I had attained, or 
even pretended to, any poetical reputation,^ and as it 
produced, when acquired, no remarkable change upon 
either, it is hardly to be expected that much informa- 
tion can be derived from minutely investigating frailties, 
follies, or vices, not very different in number or degree 
from those of other men in my situation. As I have not 
been blessed with the talents of Burns or Chatterton, I 
have been happily exempted from the influence of their 
violent passions, exasperated by the struggle of feelings 
which rose up against the unjust decrees of fortune. Yet, 
although I cannot teU of difficulties vanquished, and dis- 
tance of rank annihilated by the strength of genius, those 
who shall hereafter read this little Memoir may find in 
it some hints to be improved, for the regulation of their 
own minds, or the training those of others. 

Every Scottishman has a pedigree. It is a national 
prerogative as unalienable as his pride and his poverty. 
My birth was neither distinguished nor sordid. Accord- 
ing to the prejudices of my country, it was esteemed 

^ I do not mean to say that my success in literature has not led, me to 
mix familiarly in society much above my birth and original pretensions, 
since I have been readily received in the first circles in Britain. But there 
is a certain intuitive knowledge of the world, to which most well-edu- 
cated Scotchmen are early tr^ned, that prevents them from being much 
dazzled by this species of elevation. A man who to good nature adds 
the general rudiments of good breeding, provided he rest contented with 
a simple and unaffected manner of behaving and expressing himself, will 
never be ridiculous in the best society, and so far as his talents and in- 
formation permit, may be an agreeable part of the company. I have 
therefore never felt much elevated, nor did I experience any violent change 
in situation, by the passport which my poetical character afforded me into 
higher company than my birth warranted. — (1826.) 


gentle, as I was connected, though remotely, with ancient 
families both by my father's and mother's side. My 
father's grandfather was Walter Scott, well known in 
Teviotdale by the surname of Beardie. He was the 
second son of Walter Scott, first Laird of Eaeburn, who 
was third son of Sir William Scott, and the grandson of 
Walter Scott, commonly called in tradition Auld Watt, 
of Harden. I am therefore lineally descended from that 
ancient chieftain, whose name I have made to ring in 
many a ditty, and from his fair dame, the Flower of 
Yarrow — no bad genealogy for a Border minstrel. 
Beardie, my great-grandfather aforesaid, derived his cog- 
nomen from a venerable beard, which he wore unblem- 
ished by razor or scissors, in token of his regret for the 
banished dynasty of Stuart. It would have been well 
that his zeal had stopped there. But he took arms, and 
intrigued in their cause, until he lost all he had in the 
world, and, as I have heard, run a narrow risk of being 
hanged, had it not been for the interference of Anne, 
Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth. Beardie's elder 
brother, William Scott of Raeburn, my grea,t-grand-uncle, 
was killed about the age of twenty-one, in a duel with 
Pringle of Crichton, grandfather of the present Mark 
Pringle of Clifton. They fought with swords, as was 
the fashion of the time, in a field near Selkirk, called 
from the catastrophe the Raeburn Meadow-spot. Pringle 
fled from Scotland to Spain, and was long a captive and 
slave in Barbary. Beardie became, of course. Tutor of 
Raeburn, as the old Scottish phrase called him — that 
is, guardian to his infant nephew, father of the present 
Walter Scott of Raeburn. He also managed the estates 
of Makerstoun, being nearly related to that family by his 
mother, Isobel MacDougal. I suppose he had some 
allowance for his care in either case, and subsisted upon 
that and the fortune which he had by his wife, a Miss 
Campbell of Silvercraigs, in the west, through which 
connection my father used to eall cousin, as they say. 


with the Campbells of Blythswood. Beardie was a man 
of some learning, and a friend of Dr. Pitcairn, to whom 
his polities probably made him acceptable. They had a 
Tory or Jacobite club in Edinburgh, in which the con- 
versation is said to have been maintained in Latin. Old 
Beardie died in a house, still standing, at the northeast 
entrance to the Churchyard of Kelso, about . . . [No- 
vember 3, 1729.] 

He left three sons. The eldest, Walter, had a family, 
of which any that now remain have been long settled in 
America : — the male heirs are long since extinct. The 
third was William, father of James Scott, well known in 
India as one of the original settlers of Prince of Wales 
Island: — he had, besides, a numerous family both of 
sons and daughters, and died at Lasswade, in Mid- 
Lothian, about . . . 

The second, Robert Scott, was my grandfather. He 
was originally bred to the sea; but, being shipwrecked 
near Dundee in his trial voyage, he took such a sincere 
dislike to that element, that he could not be persuaded to 
a second attempt. This occasioned a quarrel between 
him and his father, who left him to shift for himself. 
Eobert was one of those active spirits to whom this was 
no misfortune. He turned Whig upon the spot, and 
fairly abjured his father's politics and his learned pov- 
erty. His chief and relative, Mr. Scott of Harden, gave 
him a lease of the farm of Sandy -Knowe, comprehending 
the rocks in the centre of which Smailholm or Sandy- 
Knowe Tower is situated. He took for his shepherd 
an old man called Hogg, who willingly lent him, out of 
respect to his family, his whole savings, about £30, to 
stock the new farm. With this sum, which it seems was 
at the time sufficient for the purpose, the master and 
servant set off to purchase a stock of sheep at Whit- 
sun-Tryste, a fair held on a hill near Wooler in North- 
umberland. The old shepherd went carefully from drove 
to drove, till he found a hirsel likely to answer their pur- 


pose, and then returned to tell his master to come up and 
conclude the bargain. But what was his surprise to see 
him galloping a mettled hunter about the racecourse, 
and to find he had expended the whole stock in this ex- 
traordinary purchase ! — Moses's bargain of green spec- 
tacles did not strike more dismay into the Vicar of Wake- 
field's family than my grandfather's rashness into the 
poor old shepherd. The thing, however, was irretriev- 
able, and they returned without the sheep. In the course 
of a few days, however, my grandfather, who was one of 
the best horsemen of his time, attended John Scott of 
Harden's hounds on this same horse, and displayed him 
to such advantage that he sold him for double the original 
price. The farm was now stocked in earnest; and the 
rest of my grandfather's career was that of successful 
industry. He was one of the first who were active in 
the cattle trade, afterwards carried to such extent be- 
tween the Highlands of Scotland and the leading counties 
in England, and by his droving transactions acquired a 
considerable sum of money. He was a man of middle 
stature, extremely active, quick, keen, and fiery in his 
temper, stubbornly honest, and so distinguished for his 
skill in country matters that he was the general referee 
in all points of dispute which occurred in the neighbor- 
hood. His birth being admitted as gentle gave him 
access to the best society in the county, and his dexterity 
in country sports, particularly hunting, made him an 
acceptable companion in the field as well as at the table. ^ 
Eobert Scott of Sandy-Knowe married, in 1728, Bar- 
bara Haliburton, daughter of Thomas Haliburton of 
Newmains, an ancient and respectable family in Ber- 
wickshire. Among other patrimonial possessions, they 
enjoyed the part of Dryburgh, now the property of the 
Earl of Buchan, comprehending the ruins of the Abbey. 

* The present Lord Haddington, and other gentlemen conversant with 
the south country, remember my grandfather well. He was a fine, alert 
figure, and wore a jockey cap oyer his gray hair. — (1826.) 


My grand-uncle, Robert Haliburton, having no male 
heirs, this estate, as well as the representation of the 
family, would have devolved upon my father, and indeed 
old Newmaius had settled it upon him; but this was 
prevented by the misfortunes of my grand-uncle, a weak, 
silly man, who engaged in trade, for which he had nei- 
ther stock nor talents, and became bankrupt. The an- 
cient patrimony was sold for a trifle (about £3000), and 
my father, who might have purchased it with ease, was 
dissuaded by my grandfather, who at that time believed 
a more advantageous purchase might have been made of 
some lands which Eaebum thought of selling. And thus 
we have nothing left of Dryburgh, although my father's 
maternal inheritance, but the right of stretching our 
bones where mine may perhaps be laid ere any eye but 
my own glances over these pages. 

Walter Scott, my father, was born in 1729, and edu- 
cated to the profession of a Writer to the Signet. He 
was the eldest of a large family, several of whom I shall 
have occasion to mention with a tribute of sincere grati- 
tude. My father was a singular instance of a man rising 
to eminence in a profession for which nature had in some 
degree unfitted him. He had indeed a turn for labor, 
and a pleasure in analyzing the abstruse feudal doctrines 
connected with conveyancing, which would probably 
have rendered him unrivalled in the line of a special 
pleader, had there been such a profession in Scotland; 
but in the actual business of the profession which he 
embraced, in that sharp and intuitive perception which 
is necessary in driving bargains for himself and others, 
in availing himself of the wants, necessities, caprices, 
and follies of some, arid guarding against the knavery 
and malice of others. Uncle Toby himself could not have 
conducted himself with more simplicity than my father. 
Most attorneys have been suspected, more or less justly, 
of making their own fortune at the expense of their 
clients — my father's fate was to vindicate his calling 


from the stain in one instance, for in many cases his cli- 
ents contrived to ease him of considerable sums. Many 
worshipful and be-knighted names occur to my memory, 
who did him the honor to run in his debt to the amount 
of thousands, and to pay him with a lawsuit, or a com- 
mission of bankruptcy, as the case happened. But they 
are gone to a different accounting, and it would be un- 
generous to visit their disgrace upon their descendants. 
My father was wont also to give openings, to those who 
were pleased to take them, to pick a quarrel with him. 
He had a zeal for his clients which was almost ludicrous : 
far from coldly discharging the duties of his employment 
towards them, he thought for them, felt for their honor 
as for his own, and rather risked disobliging them than 
neglecting anything to which he conceived their duty 
bound them. If there was an old mother or aunt to be 
maintained, he was, I am afraid, too apt to administer 
to their necessities from what the young heir had destined 
exclusively to his pleasures. This ready discharge of 
obligations which the Civilians tell us are only natural 
and not legal, did not, I fear, recommend him to his em- 
ployers. Yet his practice was, at one period of his life, 
very extensive. He understood his business theoreti- 
cally, and was early introduced to it by a partnership 
with George Chalmers, Writer to the Signet, under 
whom he had served his apprenticeship. 

His person and face were uncommonly handsome, with 
an expression of sweetness of temper, which was not fal- 
lacious; his manners were rather formal, but full of gen- 
uine kindness, especially when exercising the duties of 
hospitality. His general habits were not only temperate, 
but severely abstemious; but upon a festival occasion, 
there were few whom a moderate glass of wine exhila- 
rated to such a lively degree. His religion, in which he 
was devoutly sincere, was Calvinism of the strictest kind, 
and his favorite study related to church history. I sus- 
pect the good old man was often engaged with Knox and 


Spottiswoode's folios, when, immured in his solitary 
room, he was supposed to be immersed in professional 
researches. In his political principles he was a steady 
friend to freedom, with a bias, however, to the monarchi- 
cal part of our constitution, which he considered as pecu- 
liarly exposed to danger during the later years of his life. 
He had much of ancient Scottish prejudice respecting the 
forms of marriages, funerals, christenings, and so forth, 
and was always vexed at any neglect of etiquette upon 
such occasions. As his education had not been upon an 
enlarged plan, it could not be expected that he should be 
an enlightened scholar, but he had not passed through 
a busy life without observation; and his remarks upon 
times and manners often exhibited strong traits of prac- 
tical though untaught philosophy. Let me conclude this 
sketch, which I am unconscious of having overcharged, 
with a few lines written by the late Mrs. Cockburn^ 
upon the subject. They made one among a set of poeti- 
cal characters which were given as toasts among a few 
friends; and we must hold them to contain a striking 
likeness, since the original was recognized so soon as 
they were read aloud : — 

" To a thing that 's nncommoii — 
A youth of discretion, 
Who, though vastly handsome. 
Despises flirtation : 
To the friend in affliction. 
The heart of affection, 
Who may hear the last tnuup 
Without dread of detection." 

In [April, 1758] my father married Anne Rutherford, 
eldest daughter of Dr. John Rutherford, professor of 
medicine in the University of Edinburgh. He was one 
of those pupils of Boerhaave, to whom the school of medi- 
cine in our northern metropolis owes its rise, and a man 

Mrs. Cockbum (bom Misa Rutherford of Faimalie) was the authoress 
of the beautiful song — 

** I have seen the smiling 
Of fortune beguiling." — (1826.) 


distinguished for professional talent, for lively wit, and 
for literary acquirements. Dr. Kutherford was twice 
married. His first wife, of whom my mother is the sole 
surviving child, was a daughter of Sir John Swinton of 
Swinton, a family which produced many distinguished 
warriors during the Middle Ages, and which, for an- 
tiquity and honorable alliances, may rank with any in 
Britain. My grandfather's second wife was Miss Mac- 
kay, by whom he had a- second family, of whom are now 
(1808) alive. Dr. Daniel Kutherford, professor of botany 
in the University of Edinburgh, and Misses Janet and 
Christian Butherford, amiable and accomplished women. 
My father and mother had a very numerous family, no 
fewer, I believe, than twelve children, of whom many 
were highly promising, though only five survived very 
early youth. My eldest brother (that is, the eldest whom 
I remember to have seen) was Eobert Scott, so called 
after my uncle, of whom I shall have much to say here- 
after. He was bred in the King's service, under Admiral, 
then Captain William Dickson, and was in most of Rod- 
ney's battles. His temper was bold and haughty, and to 
me was often checkered with what I felt to be capricious 
tyranny. In other respects I loved him much, for he 
had a strong turn for literature, read poetry with taste 
and judgment, and composed verses himself, which had 
•gained him great applause among his messmates. Wit- 
ness the following elegy upon the supposed loss of the 
vessel, composed the night before Eodney's celebrated 
battle of April the 12th, 1782. It alludes to the various 
amusements of his mess : — 

" No more the geese shall cackle on the poop, 

No more the bagpipe through the orlop sound, 
No more the midshipmen, a joVial group. 

Shall toast the girls, and push the bottle round. 
In death's dark road at anchor fast they stay. 

Till Heaven's loud signal shall in thunder roar ; 
Then starting up, all hands shall quick obey. 

Sheet home the topsail, and with speed Unmoor." 


Robert sung agreeably — (a virtue which was never seen 
in me) — understood the mechanical arts, and when in 
good humor, could regale us with many a tale of bold 
adventure and narrow escapes. When in bad humor, 
however, he gave us a practical taste of what was then 
man-of-war's discipline, and kicked and cuffed without 
mercy. I have often thought how he might have distin- 
guished himself, had he continued in the navy until the 
present times, so glorious for nautical exploit. But the 
Peace of Paris [Versailles, 1783] cut off all hopes of 
promotion for those who had not great interest; and 
some disgust which his proud spirit had taken at harsh 
usage from a superior officer, combined to throw poor 
Eobert into the East India Company's service, for which 
his habits were iU adapted. He made two voyages to 
the East, and died a victim to the climate in . . . 

John Scott, my second brother, is about three years 
older than me. He addicted himself to the military ser- 
vice, and is now brevet-major in the 73rd regiment.^ 

I had an only sister, Anne Scott, who seemed to be 
from her cradle the butt for mischance to shoot arrows 
at. Her childhood was marked by perilous escapes from 
the most extraordinary accidents. Among others, I re- 
member an iron-railed door leading into the area in the 
centre of George's Square being closed by the wind, 
while her fingers were betwixt the hasp and staple. Her 
hand was thus locked in, and must have been smashed to 
pieces, had not the bones of her fingers been remarkably 
slight and thin. As it was, the hand was cruelly man- 
gled. On another occasion she was nearly drowned in a 
pond, or old quarry hole, in what was then called Brown's 
Park, on the south side of the square. But the most un- 
fortunate accident, and which, though it happened while 

1 He was this year made major of the second battalion, by the kind in- 
tercession of Mr. Canning at the War OfBce — 1809. He retired from the 
army, and kept house with my mother. His health was totally broken, 
and he died, yet a young man, on 8th May, 1816. — (1826.) 


she was only six years old, proved the remote cause of 
her death, was her cap accidentally taking fire. The 
child was alone in the room, and before assistance could 
be obtained, her head was dreadfully scorched. After 
a lingering and dangerous illness, she recovered — but 
never to enjoy perfect health. The slightest cold occa- 
sioned swellings in her face, and other indications of a 
delicate constitution. At length, in [1801], poor Anne 
was taken ill, and died after a very short interval. Her 
temper, like that of her brothers, was peculiar, and in 
her, perhaps, it showed more odd, from the habits of in- 
dulgence which her nervous illnesses had formed. But 
she was at heart an affectionate and kind girl, neither 
void of talent nor of feeling, though living in an ideal 
world which she had framed to herself by the force of 
imagination. Anne was my junior by about a year. 

A year lower in the list was my brother Thomas Scott, 
who is still alive. ^ 

Last, and most unfortunate of our family, was my 
youngest brother, Daniel. With the same aversion to 
labor, or rather, I should say, the same determined indo- 
lence that marked us all, he had neither the vivacity of 
intellect which supplies the want of diligence, nor the 
pride which renders the most detested labor better than 
dependence or contempt. His career was as unfortunate 
as might be augured from such an unhappy combination ; 
and after various imsuccessful attempts to establish him- 
self in life, he died on his return from the West Indies, 
in [July, 1806]. 

^ Poor Tom, a man of infinite hmnoT and excellent parts, pursued for 
some time my father's profession ; but he was unfortunate, from engaging 
in speculations respecting farms and matters out of the line of his proper 
business. He afterwards became paymaster of the 70th regiment, and 
died in Canada. Tom married Elizabeth, a daughter of the family of 
M'Culloch of Ardwell, an ancient Galwegian stock, by whom be left a 
son, Walter Scott, now second lieutenant of engineers in the East India 
Company's service, Bombay — and three daughters; Jessie, married to 
Lieutenant-Colonel Huxley ; 2. Anne ; 3. Eliza — the two laat still unmar- 
ried.— (1826.) 


Having premised so much of my family, I return to 
my own story. I was born, as I believe, on the 15th 
August, 1771, in a house belonging to my father, at the 
head of the College Wynd. It was pulled down, with 
others, to make room for the northern front of the new 
College. I was an uncommonly healthy child, but had 
nearly died in consequence of my first nurse being ill of 
a consumption, a circumstance which she chose to con- 
ceal, though to do so was murder to both herself and me. 
She went privately to consult Dr. Black, the celebrated 
professor of chemistry, who put my father on his guard. 
The woman was dismissed, and I was consigned to a 
healthy peasant, who is still alive to boast of her laddie 
being what she calls a grand gentleman.^ I showed 
every sign of health and strength until I was about eigh- 
teen months old. One night, I have been often told, I 
showed great reluctance to be caught and put to bed, 
and, after being chased about the room, was apprehended, 
and consigned to my dormitory with some difficulty. It 
was the last time I was to show such personal agility. 
In the morning I was discovered to be affected with the 
fever which often accompanies the cutting of large teeth. 
It held me three days. On the fourth, when they went 
to bathe me as usual, they discovered that I had lost the 
power of my right leg. My grandfather, an excellent 
anatomist as well as physician, the late worthy Alexander 
Wood, and many others of the most respectable of the 
faculty, were consulted. There appeared to be no dislo- 
cation or sprain ; blisters and other topical remedies were 
applied in vain.^ When the efforts of regular physicians 
had been exhausted without the slightest success, my anx- 
ious parents, during the course of many years, eag;erly 
grasped at every prospect of cure which was held out by 
the promise of empirics, or of ancient ladies or gentle- 

1 She died in 1810.— (1826.) 

' [Begarding this illness, see a medical note by Dr. Creighton to the 
article, " Scott," in the Encydopcedia BrUannica,^ 


men who conceived themselves entitled to recommend 
various remedies, some of which were of a nature suffi- 
ciently singular. But the advice of my grandfather, Dr. 
Eutherford, that I should be sent to reside in the coun- 
try, to give the chance of natural exertion, excited by 
free air and liberty, was first resorted to ; and before I 
have the recollection of the slightest event, I was, agree- 
ably to this friendly counsel, an inmate in the farmhouse 
of Sandy-Knowe. 

An odd incident is worth recording. It seems my 
mother had sent a maid to take charge of me, that I 
might be no inconvenience in the family. But the dam- 
sel sent on that important mission had left her heart be- 
hind her, in the keeping of some wild fellow, it is likely, 
who had done and said more to her than he was like to 
make good. She became extremely desirous to return to 
Edinburgh, and as my mother made a point of her re- 
maining where she was, she contracted a sort of hatred 
at poor me, as the cause of her being detained at Sandy- 
Knowe. This rose, I suppose, to a sort of delirious 
affection, for she confessed to old Alison Wilson, the 
housekeeper, that she had carried me up to the Craigs, 
meaning, under a strong temptation of the Devil, to 
cut my throat with her scissors, and bury me in the moss. 
Alison instantly took possession of my person, and took 
care that her confidant should not be subject to any far- 
ther temptation so far as I was concerned. She was dis- 
missed, of course, and I have heard became afterwards 
a lunatic. 

It is here at Sandy-Knowe, in the residence of my 
paternal grandfather, already mentioned, that I have the 
first consciousness of existence ; and I recollect distinctly 
that my situation and appearance were a little whimsical. 
Among the odd remedies recurred to to aid my lameness, 
some 'one had recommended that so often as a sheep was 
killed for the use of the family, I should be stripped, and 
swathed up in the skin, warm as it was flayed from the 


carcase of the animal. In this Tartar-like habiliment I 
well remember lying upon the floor of the little parlor in 
the farmhouse, while my grandfather, a venerable old 
man with white hair, used every excitement to make me 
try to crawl. I also distinctly remember the late Sir 
George MacDougal of Makerstoun, father of the present 
Sir Henry Hay MacDougal, joining in this kindly at- 
tempt. He was, God knows how,^ a relation of ours, 
and I still recollect him in his old-fashioned military 
habit (he had been colonel of the Greys), with a small 
cocked hat, deeply laced, an embroidered scarlet waist- 
coat, and a light-colored coat, with milk-white locks tied 
in a military fashion, kneeling on the ground before me, 
and dragging his watch along the carpet to induce me to 
follow it. The benevolent old soldier and the infant 
wrapped in his sheepskin would have afforded an odd 
group to uninterested spectators. This must have hap- 
pened about my third year, for Sir George MacDougal 
and my grandfather both died shortly after that period. 

My grandmother continued for some years to take 
charge of the farm, assisted by my father's second bro- 
ther, Mr. Thomas Scott, who resided at Crailing, as 
factor or land steward for Mr. Scott of Danesfield, then 
proprietor of that estate.^ This was during the heat of 
the American war, and I remember being as anxious on 
my uncle's weekly visits (for we heard news at no other 

* He was a second cousin of my grandfather's. Isobel MacDongal, wife 
of Walter, the first Laird of Raebum, and mother of Waiter Scott, called 
Beardie, was grand-aunt, I take it, to the late Sir George MacDougal. 
There was always great friendship between us and the Makerstoun fam- 
ily. It singularly happened, that at the burial of the late Sir Henry Mac- 
Dongal, my cousin William Scott younger of Kaebum, and I myself, were 
the nearest blood relations present, although our connection was of so old 
a date, and ranked as paU-bearers accordingly. — (1826.) 

2 My uncle afterwards resided at Elliston, and then took from Mr. 
Cornelius Elliot the estate of Woollee. Finally he retired to Monklaw in 
the neighborhood of Jedburgh, where he died, 1823, at the advanced age 
of ninety years, and in full possession of his faculties. It was a fine thing 
to hear him talk over the change of the country which he had witnessed. 
— (1826.) 


time) to hear of the defeat of Washington, as if I had 
had some deep and personal cause of antipathy to him. 
I know not how this was combined with a very strong 
prejudice in favor of the Stuart family, which I had 
originally imbibed from the songs and tales of the Jaco- 
bites. This latter political propensity was deeply con- 
firmed by the stories told in my hearing of the cruelties 
exercised in the executions at Carlisle, and in the High- 
lands, after the battle of CuUoden. One or two of our 
own distant relations had fallen on that occasion, and 
I remember of detesting the name of Cumberland with 
more than infant hatred. Mr. Curie, farmer at Yetbyre, 
husband of one of my aunts, had been present at their 
execution; and it was probably from him that I first 
heard these tragic tales which made so great an impres- 
sion on me. The local information, which I conceive had 
some share in forming my future taste and pursuits, I 
derived from the old songs and tales which then formed 
the amusement of a retired country family. My grand- 
mother, in whose youth the old Border depredations were 
matter of recent tradition, used to tell me many a tale 
of Watt of Harden, Wight Willie of Aikwood, Jamie 
Telfer of the fair Dodhead, and other heroes — merry 
men all, of the persuasion and calling of Robin Hood 
and Little John. A more recent hero, but not of less 
note, was the celebrated Diel of Littledean, whom she 
well remembered, as he had married her mother's sister. 
Of this extraordinary person I learned many a story, 
grave and gay, comic and warlike. Two or three old 
books which lay in the window seat were explored for my 
amusement in the tedious winter days. Automathes 
and Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany were my favorites, 
although at a later period an odd volume of Josephus's 
Wars of the Jews divided my partiality. 

My kind and affectionate aunt. Miss Janet Scott, 
whose memory will ever be dear to me, used to read these 
works to me with admirable patience, until I pould repeat 


long passages by heart. The ballad of Hardyknute I 
was early master of, to the great annoyance of almost our 
only visitor, the worthy ^clergyman of the parish, Dr. 
Duncan, who had not patience to have a sober chat inter- 
rupted by my shouting forth this ditty. Methinks I now 
see his tall, thin, emaciated figure, his legs cased in 
clasped gambadoes, and his face of a length that would 
have rivalled the Knight of La Mancha's, and hear him 
exclaiming, "One may as well speak in the mouth of a 
cannon as where that child is." With this little acidity, 
which was natural to him, he was a most excellent and 
benevolent man, a gentleman in every feeling, and alto- 
gether different from those of his order who cringe at the 
tables of the gentry, or domineer and riot at those of the 
yeomanry. In his youth he had been chaplain in the 
family of Lord Marchmont — had seen Pope — and could 
talk familiarly of many characters who had survived the 
Augustan age of Queen Anne. Though valetudinary, 
he lived to be nearly ninety, and to welcome to Scotland 
his son, Colonel William Duncan, who, with the highest 
character for military and civil merit, had made a con- 
siderable fortune in India. In [1795], a few days before 
his death, I paid him a visit, to inquire after his health. 
I found him emaciated to the last degree, wrapped in 
a tartan night-gown, and employed with all the activity 
of health and youth in correcting a history of the Revo- 
lution, which he intended should be given to the public 
when he was no more. He read me several passages 
with a voice naturally strong, and which the feelings of 
an author then raised above the depression of age and 
declining health. I begged him to spare this fatigue, 
which could not but injure his health. His answer was 
remarkable. "I know," he said, "that I cannot survive 
a fortnight — and what signifies an exertion that can at 
worst only accelerate my death a few days?" I mar- 
velled at the composure of this reply, for his appearance 
sufficiently youched the truth of his prophecy, and rode 


home to my uncle's (then my abode), musing what there 
could be in the spirit of authorship that could inspire its 
votaries with the courage of martyrs. He died within 
less than the period he assigned — with which event I 
close my digression. 

I was in my fourth year when my father was advised 
that the Bath waters might be of some advantage to my 
lameness. My affectionate aunt, although such a journey 
promised to a person of her retired habits anything but 
pleasure or amusement, undertook as readily to accom- 
pany me to the wells of Bladud as if she had expected all 
the delight that ever the prospect of a watering-place 
held out to its most impatient visitants. My health was 
by this time a good deal confirmed by the country air, 
and the influence of that imperceptible and unfatiguing 
exercise to which the good sense of my grandfather had 
subjected me ; for when the day was fine, I was usually 
carried out and laid down beside the old shepherd, among 
the crags or rocks round which he fed his sheep. The 
impatience of a child soon inclined me to struggle with 
my infirmity, and I began by degrees to stand, to walk, 
and to run. Although the limb affected was much 
shrunk and contracted, my general health, which was of 
more importance, was much strengthened by being fre- 
quently in the open air, and, in a word, I, who in a city 
had probably been condemned to hopeless and helpless 
decrepitude, was now a healthy, high-spirited, and, my 
lameness apart, a sturdy child — non sine diis animosus 

We went to London by sea, and it may gratify the 
curiosity of minute biographers to learn that our voyage 
was performed in the Duchess of Buccleuch, Captain 
Beatson, master. At London we made a short stay, and 
saw some of the common shows exhibited to strangers. 
When, twenty-five years afterwards, I visited the Tower 
of London and Westminster Abbey, I was astonished to 
find how accurate my recollections of these celebrated 


places of visitation proved to be, and I Lave ever since 
trusted more implicitly to my juvenile reminiscences. 
At Bath, where I lived about a year, I went through all 
the usual discipline of the pump-room and baths, but I 
believe without the least advantage to my lameness. 
During my residence at Bath, I acquired the rudiments 
of reading at a day-school, kept by an old dame near our 
lodgings, and I had never a more regular teacher, al- 
though I think I did not attend her a quarter of a year. 
An occasional lesson from my aunt supplied the rest. 
Afterwards, when grown a big boy, I had a few lessons 
from Mr. Stalker of Edinburgh, and finally from the 
Eev. Mr. Cleeve. But I never acquired a just pronun- 
ciation, nor could I read with much propriety. 

In other respeqts my residence at Bath is marked by 
very pleasing recollections. The venerable John Home, 
author of Douglas, was then at the watering-place, and 
paid much attention to my aunt and to me. His wife, 
who has survived him, was then an invalid, and used to 
take the air in her carriage on the Downs, when I was 
often invited to accompany her. But the most delightful 
recollections of Bath are dated after the arrival of my 
uncle. Captain Eobert Scott, who introduced me to all 
the little amusements which suited my age, and above 
all, to the theatre. The play was As You Like It; and 
the witchery of the whole scene is alive in my mind at 
this moment. I made, I believe, noise more than enough, 
and remember being so much scandalized at the quarrel 
between Orlando and his brother in the first scene, that 
I screamed out, "A'n't they brothers?" A few weeks' 
residence at home convinced me, who had tiU then been 
an only child in the house of my grandfather, that a 
quarrel between brothers was a very natural event. 

The other circumstances I recollect of my residence in 
Bath are but trifling, yet I never recall them without a 
feeling of pleasure. The beauties of the parade (which 
of them I know not), with the river Avon winding around 


it, and the lowing of the cattle from the opposite hills, 
are warm in my recollection, and are only rivalled by 
the splendors of a toy -shop somewhere near the Orange 
Grove. I had acquired, I know not by what means, a 
kind of superstitious terror for statuary of all kinds. No 
ancient Iconoclast or modern Calvinist could have looked 
on the outside of the Abbey church (if I mistake not, the 
principal church at Bath is so called) with more horror 
than the image of Jacob's Ladder, with all its angels, 
presented to my infant eye. My uncle effectually com- 
bated my terrors, and formally introduced me to a statue 
of Neptune, which perhaps still keeps guard at the side 
of the Avon, where a pleasure boat crosses to Spring 

After being a year at Bath, I returned first to Edin- 
burgh, and afterwards for a season to Sandy -Kn owe; — 
and thus the time whiled away till about my eighth year, 
when it was thought sea bathing might be of service to 
my lameness. 

For this purpose, still under my aunt's protection, I 
remained some weeks at Prestonpans, a circumstance not 
worth mentioning, excepting to record'my juvenile inti- 
macy with an old military veteran, Dalgetty by name, who 
had pitched his tent in that little village, after all his 
campaigns, subsisting upon an ensign's half-pay, though 
called by courtesy a Captain. As this old gentleman, 
who had been in all the German wars, found very few to 
listen to his tales of military feats, he formed a sort of 
alliance with me, and I used invariably to attend him for 
the pleasure of hearing those communications. Some- 
times our conversation turned on the American war, 
which was then raging. It was about the time of Bur- 
goyne's unfortunate expedition, to which my Captain 
and I augured different conclusions. Somebody had 
showed me a map of North America, and, struck with 
the rugged appearance of the country, and the quantity 
of lakes, I expressed some doubts on the subject of the 


General's arriving safely at the end of his journey, which 
were very indignantly refuted by the Captain. The 
news of the Saratoga disaster, while it gave me a little 
triumph, rather shook my intimacy with the veteran.^ 

1 Besides this veteran, I found another ally at Prestonpans, in the per- 
son of George Constable, an old friend of my father's, educated to the 
law, but retired upon his independent property, and generally residing 
near Dundee, He had many of those peculiarities of temper which long 
afterwards I tried to develop in the character of Jonathan Oldbuck. It is 
very odd, that though I am unconscious of anything in which I strictly 
copied the manners of my old friend, the resemblance was nevertheless 
detected by George Chalmera, Esq., solicitor, London, an old friend, both 
of my father and Mr. Constable, and who affirmed to my late friend. Lord 
JCinnedder, that I must needs be the author of The Antiquary, since he 
recognized the portrait of George Constable. But my friend George was 
not so decided an enemy to womankind as his representative Monkbarns. 
On the contrary, I rather suspect that he had a tendresse for my Aunt 
Jenny, who even then was a most beautiful woman, though somewhat 
advanced in life. To the close of her life, she had the finest eyes and 
teeth I ever saw, and though she could be sufficiently sharp when she had 
a mind, her general behavior was genteel and ladylike. However this 
might be, I derived a great deal of curious information from George Con- 
stable, both at this early period, and afterwards. He was constantly phi- 
landering about my aunt, and of course very kind to me. He was the 
first person who told me about FalstafE and Hotspur, and other characters 
in Shakespeare. What idea I annexed to them I know not ; but I must 
have annexed some, for I remember quite well being interested on the 
subject. Indeed, I rather suspect that children derive impulses of a pow- 
erful and important kind in hearing things which they cannot entirely 
comprehend ; and therefore, that to write down to children's understand- 
ing is a mistake : set them on the scent, and let them puzzle it out. To 
return to George Constable, I knew him well at a much later period. He 
used always to dine at my father's house of a Sunday, and was authorized 
to turn the conversation out of the austere and Calvinistic tone, which it 
usually maintained on that day, upon subjects of history or auld langsyne. 
He remembered the forty-five, and told many excellent stories, all with a 
strong dash of a peculiar caustic humor. 

George's sworn ally as a brother antiquary was John Davidson, then 
Keeper of the Signet ; and I remember his flattering and compelling me 
to go to dine there. A writer's apprentice with the Keepier of the Signet, 
whose least officer kept us in order ! — It was an awful event. Thither, 
however, I went with some secret expectation of a scantling of good 
claret. Mr. D. had a son whose taste inclined him to the army, to which 
his father, who had designed him for the Bar, gave a most unwilling con- 
sent. He was at this time a young officer, and he and I, leaving the two 
seniors to proceed in their chat as they pleased, never once opened our 
mouths either to them or each other. The Pragmatic Sanction happened 


From Prestonpans I was transported back to my 
father's house in George's Square, which continued to 
be my most established place of residence, until my mar- 
riage in 1797. I felt the change from being a single in- 
dulged brat, to becoming a member of a large family, very 
severely; for under the gentle government of my kind 
grandmother, who was meekness itself, and of my aunt, 
who, though of an higher temper, was exceedingly at- 
tached to me, I had acquired a degree of license which 
could not be permitted in a large family. I had sense 
enough, however, to bend my temper to my new circum- 
stances; but such was the agony which I internally expe- 
rienced, that I have guarded against nothing more in the 
education of my own family, than against their acquiring 
habits of self-willed caprice and domination. I found 
much consolation during this period of mortification in 
the partiality of my mother. She joined to a light and 
happy temper of mind a strong turn to study poetry and 
works of imagination. She was sincerely devout, but 
her religion was, as became her sex, of a cast less austere 
than my father's. Still, the discipline of the Presbyte- 
rian Sabbath was severely strict, and I think injudi- 
ciously so. Although Bunyan's Pilgrim, Gessner's Death 
of Abel, Eowe's Letters, and one orttwo other books, 
which, for that reason, I still have a favor for, were ad- 
mitted to relieve the gloom of one dull sermon succeeding 
to another — there was far too much tedium annexed to 
the duties of the day; and in the end it did none of us 
any good. 

My week-day tasks were more agreeable. My lame- 
unfortunately to become the theme of their conversation, when Gonstahle 
said in jest, " Now, John, I'll wad you a plaok that neither of these two 
lads ever heard of the Pragmatic Sanction." — "Not heard of the Prag- 
matic Sanction I " said John Davidson ; "I would like to see that ; " and 
with a voice of thunder he asked his son the fatal question. As young D. 
modestly allowed he knew nothing about it, his father drove him from 
the table in a rage, and I absconded during the confusion ; nor could Con- 
stable ever bring me back again to his friend Davidson's. — (1826.) 


ness and my solitary habits had made me a tolerable 
reader, and my hours of leisure were usually spent in 
reading aloud to my mother Pope's translation of Homer, 
which, excepting a few traditionary ballads, and the 
songs in Allan Kamsay's Evergreen, was the first poetry 
which I perused. My mother had good natural taste 
and great feeling: she used to make me pause upon those 
passages which expressed generous and worthy senti- 
ments, and if she could not divert me from those which 
were descriptive of battle and tumult, she contrived at 
least to divide my attention between them. My own 
enthusiasm, however, was chiefly awakened by the won- 
derful and the terrible — the common taste of children, 
but in which I have remained a child even unto this day. 
I got by heart, not as a task, but almost without intend- 
ing it, the passages with which I was most pleased, and 
used to recite them aloud, both when alone and to others 
— more willingly, however, in my hours of solitude, for 
I had observed some auditors smile, and I dreaded ridi- 
cule at that time of life more than I have ever done 

In [1778] I was sent to the second class of the Gram- 
mar School, or High School of Edinburgh, then taught 
by Mr. Luke Eraser, a good Latin scholar and a very 
worthy man.^ Though I had received, with my brothers, 
in private, lessons of Latin from Mr. James French, 
now a minister of the Kirk of Scotland, I was neverthe- 
less rather behind the class in which I was placed both 
in years and in progress. This was a real disadvantage, 
and one to which a boy of lively temper and talents ought 
to be as little exposed as one who might be less expected 
to make up his leeway, as it is called. The situation 
has the unfortunate effect of reconciling a boy of the 

1 [Lord Cockbum, in his Life of Jeffrey, quotes -with approval Scott's 
commendation of Mr. Fraser, and adds, that this teacher had the sin^- 
lar good fortune to turn out from three successive classes Walter Scott, 
Francis Jeffrey, and Henry Brougham.] 


former character (which in a posthumous work I may 
claim for my own) to holding a subordinate station among 
his class-fellows — to which he would otherwise affix dis- 
grace. There is, also, from the constitution of the High 
School, a certain danger not sufficiently attended to. 
The boys take precedence in their places, as they are 
called, according to their merit, and it requires a, long 
while, in general, before even a clever boy, if he falls 
behind the class, or is put into one for which he is not 
quite ready, can force his way to the situation which his 
abilities really entitle him to hold. But, in the mean 
while, he is necessarily led to be the associate and com- 
panion of ^ those inferior spirits with whom he is placed; 
for the system of precedence, though it does not limit the 
general intercourse among the boys, has nevertheless the 
effect of throwing them into clubs and coteries, according 
to the vicinity of the seats they hold. A boy of good 
talents, therefore, placed even for a time among his in- 
feriors, especially if they be also his elders, learns to 
participate in their pursuits and objects of ambition, 
which are usually very distinct from the acquisition of 
learning; and it will be well if he does not also imitate 
them in that indifference which is contented with bus- 
tling over a lesson so as to avoid punishment, without 
affecting superiority or aiming at reward. It was prob- 
ably owing to this circumstance that, although at a more 
advanced period of life I have enjoyed considerable facil- 
ity in acquiring languages, I did not make any great 
figure at the High School — or, at least, any exertions 
which I made were desultory and little to be depended 

Our class contained some very excellent scholars. The 
first Dux was James Buchan, who retained his honored 
place, almost without a day's interval, all the while we 
were at the High School. He was afterwards at the 
head of the medical staff in Egypt, and in exposing him- 
seK to the plague infection, by attending the hospitals 


there, displayed the same well-regulated and gentle, yet 
determined, perseverance which placed him most worthily 
at the head of his schoolfellows, while many lads of live- 
lier parts and dispositions held an inferior station. The 
next best scholars (,sed longo intervallo) were my friend 
David Douglas, the heir and Sieve of the celebrated Adam 
Smith, and James Hope, now a Writer to the Signet, both 
since well known and distinguished in their departments 
of the law. As for myself, I glanced like a meteor from 
one end of the class to the other, and commonly disgusted 
my kind master as much by negligence and frivolity, as 
I occasionally pleased him by flashes of intellect and 
talent. Among my companions my good-nature and a 
flow of ready imagination rendered me very popular. 
Boys are uncommonly just in their feelings, and at least 
equally generous. My lameness, and the efforts which I 
made to supply that disadvantage, by making up in ad- 
dress what I wanted in activity, engaged the latter prin- 
ciple in my favor; and in the winter play hours, when 
hard exercise was impossible, my tales used to assemble 
an admiring audience round Lucky Brown's fireside, and 
happy was he that could sit next to the inexhaustible 
narrator. I was also, though' often negligent of my own 
task, always ready to assist my friends, and hence I had 
a little party of stanch partisans and adherents, stout 
of hand and heart, though somewhat dull of head — the 
very tools for raising a hero to eminence. So, on the 
whole, I made a brighter figure in the yards than in the 

^ I read not long since, iii that anthentic record called the Percy Anec- 
dotes, that I had heen educated at Musselburgh school, where I had been 
distinguished as an absolnte dunce ; only Dr. Blair, seeing farther into the 
millstone, had pronounced there was fire in it. I never was at Mussel- 
burgh school in my life, and though I have met Dr. Blair at my father's 
and elsewhere, I never had the good fortune to attract his notice, to my 
knowledge. Lastly, I was never a dunce, nor thought to be so, but an in- 
corrigibly idle imp, who was always longing to do something else than 
what was enjoined him. — (1826.) 


My father did not trust our education solely to our 
High School lessons. We had a tutor at home, a young 
man of an excellent disposition, and a laborious student. 
He was bred to the Kirk, but unfortunately took such a 
very strong turn to fanaticism, that he afterwards resigned 
an excellent living in a seaport town, merely because he 
could not persuade the mariners of the guilt of setting 
sail of a Sabbath, — in which, by the bye, he was less 
likely to be successful, as, cceteris paribus, sailors, from 
an opinion that it is a fortunate omen, always choose to 
weigh anchor on that day. The calibre of this young 
man's understanding may be judged of by this anecdote; 
but in other respects he was a faithful and active in- 
structor; and from him chiefly I learned writing and 
arithmetic. I repeated to him my French lessons, and 
studied with him my themes in the classics, but not clas- 
sically. I also acquired, by disputing with him (for this 
he readily permitted), some knowledge of school divinity 
and church history, and a great acquaintance in pai-ticu- 
lar with the old books describing the early history of the 
Church of Scotland, the wars and sufferings of the Cove- 
nanters, and so forth. I, with a head on fire for chiv- 
alry, was a Cavalier; my friend was a Eoundhead: I 
was a Tory, and he was a Whig. I hated Presbyterians, 
and admired Montrose with his victorious Highlanders; 
he liked the Presbyterian Ulysses, the dark and politic 
Argyle: so that we never wanted subjects of dispute; but 
oflr disputes were always amicable. In all these tenets 
there was no real conviction on my part, arising out of 
acquaintance with the views or principles of either party ; 
nor had my antagonist address enough to turn the debate 
on such topics. I took up my politics at that period, as 
King Charles II. did his religion, from an idea that the 
Cavalier creed was the more gentlemanlike persuasion of 
the two. 

After having been three years under Mr. Fraser, our 
class was, in the usual routine of the school, turned over 

26 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 12 

to Dr. Adam, the Keetor. It was from this respectable 
man that I first learned the value of the knowledge I had 
hitherto considered only as a burdensome task. It was 
the fashion to remain two years at his class, where we 
read Caesar, and Livy, and Sallust, in prose; Virgil, 
Horace, and Terence, in verse. I had by this time mas- 
tered, in some degree, the difficulties of the language, 
and began to be sensible of its beauties. This was really 
gathering grapes from thistles; nor shall I soon forget 
the swelling of my little pride when the Rector pro- 
nounced, that though many of my schoolfellows under- 
stood the Latin better, Gualterus Scott was behind few 
in following and enjoying the author's meaning. Thus 
encouraged, I distinguished myself by some attempts at 
poetical versions from Horace and Virgil. Dr. Adam 
used to invite his scholars to such essays, but never made 
them tasks. I gained some distinction upon these occa- 
sions, and the Rector in future took much notice of me; 
and his judicious mixture of censure and praise went far 
to counterbalance my habits of indolence and inattention. 
I saw I was expected to do weU, and I was piqued in 
honor to vindicate my master's favorable opinion. I 
climbed, therefore, to the first form ; and, though I never 
made a first-rate Latinist, my schoolfellows, and what 
was of more consequence, I myself, considered that I had 
a character for learning to maintain. Dr. Adam, to 
whom I owed so much, never failed to remind me of my 
obligations when I had made some figure in the literary 
world. He was, indeed, deeply imbued with that fortu- 
nate vanity which alone could induce a man who has 
arms to pare and bum a muir, to submit to the yet more 
toilsome task of cultivating youth. As Catholics confide 
in the imputed righteousness of their saints, so did the 
good old Doctor plume himself upon the success of his 
scholars in life, all of which he never failed (and often 
justly) to claim as the creation, or at least the fruits, of 
his early instructions. He remembered the fate of every 


boy at his school during the fifty years he had superin- 
tended it, and always traced their success or misfortunes 
entirely to their attention or negligence when under his 
care. His "noisy mansion," which to others would have 
been a melancholy bedlam, was the pride of his heart; 
and the only fatigues he felt, amidst din and tumult, and 
the necessity of reading themes, hearing lessons, and 
maintaining some degree of order at the same time, were 
relieved by comparing himself to Csesar, who could dic- 
tate to three secretaries at once ; — so ready is vanity to 
lighten the labors of duty. 

It is a pity that a man so learned, so admirably 
adapted for his station, so useful, so simple, so easily 
contented, should have had other subjects of mortifica- 
tion. But the magistrates of Edinburgh, not knowing 
the treasure they possessed in Dr. Adam, encouraged a 
savage fellow, called Nicol, one of the undermasters, in 
insulting his person and authority. This man was an 
excellent classical scholar, and an admirable convivial 
humorist (which latter quality recommended him to the 
friendship of Burns); but worthless, drunken, and in- 
humanly cruel to the boys under his charge. He carried 
his feud against the Bector within an inch of assassination, 
for he waylaid and knocked him down in the dark. The 
favor which this worthless rival obtained in the town 
council led to other consequences, which for some time 
clouded poor Adam's happiness and fair fame. When 
the French Eevolution broke out, and parties ran high 
in approving or condemning it, the Doctor incautiously 
joined the former. This was very natural, for as aU his 
ideas of existing governments were derived from his ex- 
perience of the town council of Edinburgh, it must be 
admitted they scarce brooked comparison with the free 
states of Eome and Greece, from which he borrowed his 
opinions concerning republics. His want of caution in 
speaking on the political topics of the day lost him the 
respect of the boys, most of whom were acoustomed to 


hear very different opinions on those matters in the 
bosom of their families. This, however (which was long 
after my time), passed away with other heats • of the 
period, and the Doctor continued his labors till about a 
year since, when he was struck with palsy while teaching 
his class. He survived a few days, but becoming deli- 
rious before his dissolution, conceived he was still in 
school, and after some expressions of applause or censure, 
he said, "But it grows dark — the boys may dismiss," — 
and instantly expired. ^ 

From Dr. Adam's class I should, according to the 
usual routine, have proceeded immediately to college. 
But, fortunately, I was not yet to lose, by a total dismis- 
sion from constraint, the acquaintance with the Latin 
which I had acquired. My health had become rather 
delicate from rapid growth, and my father was easily 
persuaded to allow me to spend half a year at Kelso with 
my kind aunt. Miss Janet Scott, whose inmate I again 
became. It was hardly worth mentioning that I had 
frequently visited her during our short vacations. 

At this time she resided in a small house, situated very 
pleasantly in a large garden, to the eastward of the 
churchyard of Kelso, which extended down to the Tweed. 
It was then my father's property, from whom it was 
afterwards purchased by my uncle. My grandmother 
was now dead, and my aunt's only companion, besides 
an old maid-servant, was my cousin. Miss Barbara Scott, 
now Mrs. Meik. My time was here left entirely to my 
own disposal, excepting for about four hours in the day, 
when I was expected to attend the Grammar School of 

1 [On December 21, 1809, a few days after Dr. Adam's death, Scott writes 
to Mrs. Thomas Scott : " Poor old Dr. Adam died last week after a very 
short illness, which first affected him in school. He was light-headed, 
and continued to speak as in the class until the very last, when, having 
been sUent for many hours, he said, ' That Horace was very well said ; you 
did not do it so well ; ' then added faintly, ' But it grows dark, very dark, 
the boys may dismiss,' and with these striking words he expired." — 
Familiar Letters, vol. i. p. 154.] 


the village. The teacher at that time was Mr. Lancelot 
Whale, an excellent classical scholar, a humorist, and a 
worthy man. He had a supreme antipathy to the puns 
which his very uncommon name frequently gave rise to; 
insomuch, that he made his son spell the word Wale, 
which only occasioned the young man being nicknamed 
the Prince of Wales by the military mess to which he 
belonged. As for Whale, senior, the least allusion to 
Jonah, or the terming him an odd fish, or any similar 
quibble, was sure to put him beside himself. In point 
of knowledge and taste he was far too good for the situa- 
tion he held, which only required that he should give his 
scholars a rough foundation in the Latin language. My 
time with him, though short, was spent greatly to my 
advantage and his gratification. He was glad to escape 
to Persius and Tacitus from the eternal Rudiments and 
Cornelius Nepos ; and as perusing these authors with one 
who began to understand them was to him a labor of 
love, I made considerable progress under his instructions. 
I suspect, indeed, that some of the time dedicated to me 
was withdrawn from the instruction of his more regular 
scholars; but I was as grateful as I could be. I acted as 
usher, and heard the inferior classes, and I spouted the 
speech of Galgacus at the public examination, which did 
not make the less impression on the audience that few of 
them probably understood one word of it. 

In the mean while my acquaintance with English liter- 
ature was gradually extending itself. In the intervals of 
my school hours I had always perused with avidity such 
books of history or poetry or voyages and travels as 
chance presented to me — not forgetting the usual, or 
rather ten times the usual, quantity of fairy tales. Eastern 
stories, romances, etc. These studies were totally un- 
regulated and undirected. My tutor thought it almost 
a sin to open a profane play or poem ; and my mother, 
besides that she might be in some degree trammelled by 
the religious scruples which he suggested, had no longer 


the opportunity to hear me read poetry as formerly. I 
found, however, in her dressing-room (where I slept at 
one time) some odd volumes of Shakespeare, nor can I 
easily forget the rapture with which I sat up in my shirt 
reading them by the light of a fire in her apartment, 
until the bustle of the family rising from supper warned 
me it was time to creep back to my bed, where I was 
supposed to have been safely deposited since nine o'clock. 
Chance, however, threw in my way a poetical preceptor. 
This was no other than the excellent and benevolent Dr. 
Blacklock, well known at that time as a literary charac- 
ter. I know not how I attracted his attention, and that 
of some of the young men who boarded in his family; 
but so it was that I became a frequent and favored guest. 
The kind old man opened to me the stores of his library, 
and through his recommendation I became intimate with 
Ossian and Spenser. I was delighted with both, yet I 
think chiefly with the latter poet. The tawdry repeti- 
tions of the Ossianic phraseology disgusted me rather 
sooner than might have been expected from my age. 
But Spenser I could have read forever. Too young to 
trouble myself about the allegory, I considered all the 
knights and ladies and dragons and giants in their out- 
ward and exoteric sense, and God only knows how de- 
lighted I was to find myself in such society. As I had 
always a wonderful facility in retaining in my memory 
whatever verses pleased me, the quantity of Spenser's 
stanzas which I could repeat was really marvellous. But 
this memory of mine was a very fickle ally, and has 
through my whole life acted merely upon its own capri- 
cious motion, and might have enabled me to adopt old 
Beattie of Meikledale's answer, when complimented by 
a certain reverend divine on the strength of the same 
faculty: — "No, sir," answered the old Borderer, "I 
have no command of my memory. It only retains what 
hits my fancy; and probably, sir, if you were to preach 
to me for two hours, I would not be able when you fin- 


ished to remember a word you had been saying." My 
memory was precisely of tbe same kind : it seldom failed 
to preserve most tenaciously a favorite passage of poetry, 
a playhouse ditty, or, above all, a Border-raid ballad; 
but names, dates, and the other technicalities of history, 
escaped me in a most melancholy degree. The philoso- 
phy of history, a much more important subject, was also 
a sealed book at this period of my life ; but I gradually 
assembled much of what was striking and picturesque in 
historical narrative ; and when, in riper years, I attended 
more to the deduction of general principles, I was fur- 
nished with a powerful host of examples in illustration of 
them. I was, in short, like an ignorant gamester, who 
kept a good hand until he knew how to play it. 

I left the High School, therefore, with a great quantity 
of general information, ill arranged, indeed, and collected 
without system, yet deeply impressed upon my mind; 
readily assorted by my power of connection and memory, 
and gilded, if I may be permitted to say so, by a vivid 
and active imagination. If my studies were not under 
any direction at Edinburgh, in the country, it may be 
well imagined, they were less so. A respectable sub- 
scription library, a circulating library of ancient stand- 
ing, and some private book-shelves, were open to my 
random perusal, and I waded into the stream like a blind 
man into a ford, without the power of searching my way, 
unless by groping for it. My appetite for books was as 
ample and indiscriminating as it was indefatigable, and 
I since have had too frequently reason to repent that few 
ever read so much, and to so little purpose. 

Among the valuable acquisitions I made about this 
time was an acquaintance with Tasso's Jerusalem Deliv- 
ered, through the fiat medium of Mr. Hoole's transla- 
tion. But above all, I then first became acquainted with 
Bishop Percy's Keliques of Ancient Poetry. As I had 
been from infancy devoted to legendary lore of this 
nature, and only reluctantly withdrew my attention, from 


the scarcity of materials and the rudeness of those which 
I possessed, it may be imagined, but cannot be described, 
with what delight I saw pieces of the same kind which 
had amused my childhood, and still continued in secret 
the Delilahs of my imagination, considered as the subject 
of sober research, grave commentary, and apt illustra- 
tion, by an editor who showed his poetical genius was 
capable of emulating the best qualities of what his pious 
labor preserved. I remember well the spot where I read 
these volumes for the first time. It was beneath a huge 
platanus-tree, in the ruins of what had been intended for 
an old-fashioned arbor in the garden I have mentioned. 
The summer day sped onward so fast that, notwithstand- 
ing the sharp appetite of thirteen, I forgot the hour of 
dinner, was sought for with anxiety, and was still found 
entranced in my intellectual banquet. To read and to 
remember was in this instance the same thing, and hence- 
forth I overwhelmed my schoolfellows, and all who 
would hearken to me, with tragical recitations from the 
ballads of Bishop Percy. The first time, too, I could 
scrape a few shillings together, which were not common 
occurrences with me, I bought unto myself a copy of 
these beloved volumes; nor do I believe I ever read a 
book half so frequently, or with half the enthusiasm. 
About this period, also, I became acquainted with the 
works of Eichardson, and those of Mackenzie — (whom 
in later years I became entitled to call my friend) — with 
Fielding, Smollett, and some others of our best novelists. 
To this period, also, I can trace distinctly the awaking 
of that delightful feeling for the beauties of natural ob- 
jects which has never since deserted me. The neighbor- 
hood of Kelso, the most beautiful, if not the most roman- 
tic village in Scotland, is eminently calculated to awaken 
these ideas. It presents objects, not only grand in them- 
selves, but venerable from their association. The meet- 
ing of two superb rivers, the Tweed and the Teviot, both 
renowned in song — the ruins of an ancient abbey — the 


more distant vestiges of Koxburgh Castle — the modern 
mansion of Fleurs, which is so situated as to combine the 
ideas of ancient baronial grandeur with those of modern 
taste — are in themselves objects of the first class; yet 
are so mixed, united, and melted among a thousand other 
beauties of a less prominent description, that they har- 
monize into one general picture, and please rather by 
unison than by concord. I believe I have written unin- 
telligibly upon this subject, but it is fitter for the pencil 
than the pen. The romantic feelings which I have de- 
scribed as predominating in my mind, naturally rested 
upon and associated themselves with these grand features 
of the landscape around me ; and the historical incidents, 
or traditional legends connected with many of them, gave 
to my admiration a sort of intense impression of rever- 
ence, which at times made my heart feel too big for its 
bosom. From this time the love of natural beauty, more 
especially when combined with ancient ruins, or remains 
of our fathers' piety or splendor, became with me an in- 
satiable passion, which, if circumstances had permitted, 
I would willingly have gratified by travelling over half 
the globe. 

I was recalled to Edinburgh about the time when the 
College meets, and put at once to the Humanity class, 
under Mr. Hill, and the first Greek class, taught by Mr. 
Dalzell. The former held the reins of disisipline very 
loosely, and though beloved by his students, for he was 
a good-natured man as well as a good scholar, he had 
not the art of exciting our attention as well as liking. 
This was a dangerous character with whom to trust one 
who relished labor as little as I did, and amid the riot 
of his class I speedily lost much of what I had learned 
under Adam and Whale. At the Greek class, I might 
have made a better figure, for Professor Dalzell main- 
tained a great deal of authority, and was not only himself 
an admirable scholar, but was always deeply interested 
in the progress of his students. But here lay the vil- 

34 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 14 

lainy. Almost all my companions who had left the High 
School at the same time with myself had acquired a smat- 
tering of Greek before they came to College. I, alas, 
had none; and finding myseK far inferior to all my fel- 
low-students, I could hit upon no better mode of vindi- 
cating my equality than by professing my contempt for 
the language, and my resolution not to learn it. A youth 
who died early, himself an excellent Greek scholar, saw 
my negligence and folly with pain, instead of contempt. 
He came to call on me in George's Square, and pointed 
out in the strongest terms the silliness of the conduct I 
had adopted, told me I was distinguished by the name of 
the Greek Blockhead, and exhorted me to redeem my 
reputation while it was called to-day. My stubborn 
pride received this advice with sulky civility; the birth 
of my Mentor (whose name was Archibald, the son of an 
innkeeper) did not, as I thought in my folly, authorize 
him to intrude upon me his advice. The other was not 
sharp-sighted, or his consciousness of a generous inten- 
tion overcame his resentment. He offered me his daily 
and nightly assistance, and pledged himself to bring me 
forward with the foremost of my class. I felt some 
twinges of conscience, but they were unable to prevail 
over my pride and self-conceit. The poor lad left me 
more in sorrow than in anger, nor did we ever meet 
again. All hopes of my progress in the Greek were now 
over; insomuch that when we were required to write 
essays on the authors we had studied, I had the audacity 
to produce a composition in which I weighed Homer 
against Ariosto, and pronounced him wanting in the 
balance. I supported this heresy by a profusion of bad 
reading and flimsy argument. The wrath of the Pro- 
fessor was extreme, while at the same time he could not 
suppress his surprise at the quantity of out-of-the-way 
knowledge which I displayed. He pronounced upon me 
the severe sentence — that dunce I was, and dunce was 
to remain — which, however, my excellent and learned 


friend lived to revoke over a bottle of Burgundy, at our 
literary Club at Fortune's, of wbich he was a distin- 
guished member. 

Meanwhile, as if to eradicate my slightest tincture of 
Greek, I fell ill during the middle of Mr. Dalzell's sec- 
ond class, and migrated a second time to Kelso — where 
I again continued a long time reading what and how I 
pleased, and of course reading nothing but what afforded 
me immediate entertainment. The only thing which 
saved my mind from utter dissipation was that turn for 
historical pursuit, which never abandoned me even at the 
idlest period. I had forsworn the Latin classics for no 
reason I know of, unless because they were akin to the 
Greek; but the occasional perusal of Buchanan's history, 
that of Matthew Paris, and other monkish chronicles, 
kept up a kind of familiarity with the language even in 
its rudest state. But I forgot the very letters of the 
Greek alphabet; a loss never to be. repaired, considering 
what that language is, and who they were who employed 
it in their compositions. 

^ About this period — or soon afterwards — my father 
judged it proper I should study mathematics, a study 
upon which I entered with all the ardor of novelty. My 
tutor was an aged person, Dr. MacFait, who had in his 
time been distinguished as a teacher of this science. 
Age, however, and some domestic inconveniences, had 
diminished his pupils, and lessened his authority 
amongst the few who remained. I think that, had I 
been more fortunately placed for instruction, or had I 
had the spur of emulation, I might have made some pro- 
gress in this science, of which, under the circumstances 
I have mentioned, I only acquired a very superficial 

In other studies I was rather more fortunate. I made 
some progress in Ethics under Professor John Bruce, 
and was selected, as one of his students whose progress he 
approved, to read an essay before Principal Bobertson. 

26 SIR WALTER SCOTT . ^t. 15 

I was farther instructed in Moral Philosopliy at the class 
of Mr. Dugald Stewart, whose striking and impressive 
eloquence riveted the attention even of the most volatile 
student. To sum up my academical studies, I attended 
the class of History, then taught by the present Lord 
Woodhouselee, and, as far as I remember, no others, 
excepting those of the Civil and Municipal Law. So 
that, if my learning be flimsy and inaccurate, the reader 
must have some compassion even for an idle workman, 
who had so narrow a foundation to build upon. If, how- 
ever, it should ever fall to the lot of youth to peruse these 
pages — let such a reader remember that it is with the 
deepest regret that I recollect in my manhood the oppor- 
tunities of learning which I neglected in my youth; that 
through every part of my literary career I have felt 
pinched and hampered by my own ignorance ; and that 
I would at this moment give half the reputation I have 
had the good fortune .to acquire, if by doing so I could 
rest the remaining part upon a sound foundation of learn- 
ing and science. 

I imagine my father's reason for sending me to so few 
classes in the College was a desire that I should apply 
myseK particularly to my legal studies. He had not 
determined whether I should fill the situation of an Ad- 
vocate or a Writer; but judiciously considering the tech- 
nical knowledge of the latter to be useful at least, if not 
essential, to a barrister, he resolved I should serve the 
ordinary apprenticeship of five years to his own profes- 
sion. I accordingly entered into indentures with my 
father about 1785-86, and entered upon the dry and 
barren wilderness of forms and conveyances. 

I cannot reproach myself, with being entirely an idle 
apprentice — far less, as the reader might reasonably 
have expected, 

" A olerk foredoom'd my father's soul to cross." 

The drudgery, indeed, of the office I disliked, and the 


confinement I altogether detested; but I loved my father, 
and I felt the rational pride and pleasure of rendering 
myself useful to him. I was ambitious also ; and among 
my companions in labor, the only way to gratify ambi- 
tion was to labor hard and well. Other circumstances 
reconciled me in some measure to the confinement. The 
allowance for copy -money furnished a little fund for the 
menus plaisirs of the circulating library and the theatre ; 
and this was no trifling incentive to labor. When ac- 
tually at the oar, no man could pull it harder than I, and 
I remember writing upwards of 120 folio pages with no 
interval either for food or rest. Again, the hours of 
attendance on the office were lightened by the power of 
choosing my own books, and reading them in my own 
way, which often consisted in beginning at the middle or 
the end of a volume. A deceased friend, who was a 
fellow-apprentice with me, used often to express his sur- 
prise that, after such a hop-step-and-jump perusal, I 
knew as much of the book as he had been able to acquire 
from reading it in the usual manner. My desk usually 
contained a store of most miscellaneous volumes, espe- 
cially works of fiction of every kind, which were my su- 
preme delight. I might except novels, unless those of 
the better and higher class ; for though I read many of 
them, yet it was with more selection than might have 
been expected. The whole Jemmy and Jenny Jessamy 
tribe I abhorred, and it required the art of Burney, or 
the feeling of Mackenzie, to fix my attention upon a do- 
mestic tale. But all that was adventurous and romantic 
I devoured without much discrimination, and I really be- 
lieve I have read as much nonsense of this class as any 
man now living. Everything which touched on knight- 
errantry was particularly acceptable to me, and I soon 
attempted to imitate what I so greatly admired. My 
efforts, however, were in the manner of the tale-teller, 
not of the bard. 

My greatest intimate, from the days of my school-tide. 


was Mr. John Irving, now a Writer to the Signet. We 
lived near each other, and by joint agreement were wont, 
each of us, to compose a romance for the other's amuse- 
ment. These legends, in which the martial and the 
miraculous always predominated, we rehearsed to each 
other during our walks, which were usually directed to 
the most solitary spots about Arthur's Seat and Salis- 
bury Crags. We naturally sought seclusion, for we were 
conscious no small degree of ridicule would have attended 
our amusement, if the nature of it had become known. 
Whole holidays were spent in this singular pastime, 
which continued for two or three years, and had, I be- 
lieve, no small effect in directing the turn of my imagi- 
nation to the chivalrous and romantic in poetry and 

Meanwhile, the translations of Mr. Hoole having made 
me acquainted with Tasso and Ariosto, I learned from 
his notes on the latter, that the Italian language con- 
tained a fund of romantic lore. A part of my earnings 
was dedicated to an Italian class which I attended twice 
a week, and rapidly acquired some proficiency. I had 
previously renewed and extended my knowledge of the 
French language, from the same principle of romantic 
research. Tressan's romances, the Bibliotheque Bleue, 
and Bibliotheque de Eomans, were already familiar to 
me, and I now acquired similar intimacy with the works 
of Dante, Boiardo, Pulci, and other eminent Italian 
authors. I fastened also, like a tiger, upon every collec- 
tion of old songs or romances which chance threw in my 
way, or which my scrutiny was able to discover on the 
dusty shelves of James Sibbald's circulating library in 
the Parliament Square. This coUectipn, now dismantled 
and dispersed, contained at that time many rare and 
curious works, seldom found in such a collection. Mr. 
Sibbald himself, a man of rough manners but of some 
taste and judgment, cultivated music and poetry, and in 
his shop I had a distant view of some literary characters. 


besides the privilege of ransacking the stores of old 
French and Italian books, which were in little demand 
among the bulk of his subscribers. Here I saw the un- 
fortunate Andrew Macdonald, author of yimonda; and 
here, too, I saw at a distance the boast of Scotland, 
Eobert Burns. Of the latter I shall presently have occa- 
sion to speak more fully. 

I am inadvertently led to confound dates while I talk 
of this remote period, for, as I have no notes, it is im- 
possible for me to remember with accuracy the progress 
of studies, if they deserve the name, so irregular and 
miscellaneous. But about the second year of my appren- 
ticeship my health, which, from rapid growth and other 
causes, had been hitherto rather uncertain and delicate, 
was affected by the breaking of a blood-vessel. The 
regimen I had to undergo on this occasion was far from 
agreeable. It was spring, and the weather raw and cold, 
yet I was confined to bed with a single blanket, and bled 
and blistered till I scarcely had a pulse left. I had all 
the appetite of a growing boy, but was prohibited any 
sustenance beyond what was absolutely necessary for the 
support of nature, and that in vegetables alone. Above 
all, with a considerable disposition to talk, I was not 
permitted to open my lips without one or two old ladies 
who watched my couch being ready at once to souse upon 

" imposing silence with a stilly sound." * 

My only refuge was reading and playing at chess. To 
the romances and poetry, which I chiefly delighted in, I 
had always added the study of history, especially as con- 
nected with military events. I was encouraged in this 
latter study by a tolerable acquaintance with geography, 
and by the opportunities I had enjoyed while with Mr. 
MacFait to learn the meaning of the more ordinary terms 
of fortification. While, therefore, I lay in this dreary 
and silent solitude, I fell upon the resource of illu§trat- 
1 [Home's Douglas.} 


ing the battles I read of by the childish expedient of 
arranging shells, and seeds, and pebbles, so as to repre- 
sent encountering armies. Diminutive cross-bows were 
contrived to mimic artillery, and with the assistance of 
a friendly carpenter I contrived to model a fortress, 
which, like that of Uncle Toby, represented whatever 
place happened to be uppermost in my imagination. I 
fought my way thus through Vertot's Knights of Malta 

— a book which, as it hovered between history and ro- 
mance, was exceedingly dear to me ; and Orme's interest- 
ing and beautiful History of Indostan, whose copious 
plans, aided by the clear and luminous explanations of 
the author, rendered my imitative amusement peculiarly 
easy. Other moments of these weary weeks were spent 
in looking at the Meadow Walks, by assistance of a com- 
bination of mirrors so arranged that, while lying in bed, 
I could see the troops march out to exercise, or any other 
incident which occurred on that promenade. 

After one or two relapses, my constitution recovered 
the injury it had sustained, though for several months 
afterwards I was restricted to a severe vegetable diet. 
And I must say, in passing, that though I gained health 
under this necessary restriction, yet it was far from being 
agreeable to me, and I was affected whilst under its influ- 
ence with a nervousness which I never felt before or since. 
A disposition to start upon slight alarms — a want of de- 
cision in feeling and acting, which has not usually been 
my failing — an acute sensibility to trifling inconveniences 

— and an unnecessary apprehension of contingent misfor- 
tunes, rise to my memory as connected with my vegetable 
diet, although they may very possibly have been entirely 
the result of the disorder and not of the cure. Be this as 
it may, with this illness I bade farewell both to disease 
and medicine ; for since that time, till the hour I am now 
writing, I have enjoyed a state of the most robust health, 
having only had to complain of occasional headaches or 
stomachic affections when I have been long without taking 


exercise, or have lived too convivially — the latter having 
been occasionally, though not habitually, the error of my 
. youth, as the former has been of my advanced life. 

My frame gradually became hardened with my consti- 
tution, and being both tall and muscular, I was rather 
disfigured than disabled by my lameness. This personal 
disadvantage did not prevent me from taking much ex- 
ercise on horseback, and making long journeys on foot, in 
the course of which I often walked from twenty to thirty 
miles a day. A distinct instance occurs to me. I re- 
member walking with poor James Kamsay, my fellow- 
apprentice, now no more, and two other friends, to break- 
fast at Prestonpans. "We spent the forenoon in visiting 
the ruins at Seton, and the field of battle at Preston — 
dined at Prestonpans on tUed haddocks very sumptuously 
— drank half a bottle of port each, and returned in the 
evening. This could not be less than thirty miles, nor do 
I remember being at all fatigued upon the occasion. 

These excursions on foot or horseback formed by far 
my most favorite amusement. I have all my life delighted 
in travelling, though I have never enjoyed that pleasure 
upon a large scale. It was a propensity which I some- 
times indulged so unduly as to alarm and vex my parents. 
Wood, water, wilderness itself, had an inexpressible 
charm for me, and I had a dreamy way of going much 
farther than I intended, so that unconsciously my return 
was protracted, and my parents had sometimes serious 
cause of uneasiness. For example, I once set out with 
Mr. George Abercromby ^ (the son of the immortal Gen- 
eral), Mr. William Clerk, and some others, to fish in the 
lake above Howgate, and the stream which descends from 
it into the Esk. We breakfasted at Howgate, and fished 
the whole day ; and while we were on our return next 
morning, I was easily seduced by WiUiam Clerk, then a 
great intimate, to visit Pennycuik-house, the seat of his 
family. Here he and John Irving, and I for their sake, 
1 Now Lord Abercromby. — (1826.) 

42 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 17 

were overwlielmed with kindness by the late Sir John 
Clerk and his lady, the present Dowager Lady Clerk. 
The pleasure of looking at fine pictures, the beauty of the 
place, and the flattering hospitality of the owners, drowned 
all recollection of home for a day or two. Meanwhile 
our companions, who had walked on without being aware 
of our digression, returned to Edinburgh without us, and 
excited no small alarm in my father's household. At 
length, however, they became accustomed to my esca- 
pades. My father used to protest to me on such occasions 
that he thought I was born to be a strolling pedlar; and 
though the prediction was intended to mortify my conceit, 
I am not sure that I altogether disliked it. I was now 
familiar with Shakespeare, and thought of Autolycus's 
song — 

" Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way, 

And merrily hent the stile-a : 

A merry heart goes all the day, 

Yonr sad tires in a mile-a." 

My principal object in these excursions was the plea- 
sure of seeing romantic scenery, or what afforded me at 
least equal pleasure, the places which had been distin- 
guished by remarkable historical events. The delight 
with which I regarded the former, of course had general 
approbation, but I often found it difficult to procure sym- 
pathy with the interest I felt in the latter. Yet to me, 
the wandering over the field of Bannockbum was the 
source of more exquisite pleasure than gazing upon the 
celebrated landscape from the battlements of Stirling 
castle. I do not by any means infer that I was dead to 
the feeling of picturesque scenery; on the contrary, few 
delighted more in its general effect. But I was unable 
with the eye of a painter to dissect the various parts of 
the scene, to comprehend how the one bore upon the other, 
to estimate the effect which various features of the view 
had in producing its leading and general effect. I have 
never, indeed, been capable of doing this with precision 


or nicety, though my latter studies have led me to amend 
and arrange my original ideas upon the subject. Even 
the humble ambition, which I long cherished, of making 
sketches of those places which interested me, from a de- 
fect of eye or of hand was totally ineffectual. After long 
study and many efforts, I was unable to apply the ele- 
ments of perspective or of shade to the scene before me, 
and was obliged to relinquish in despair an art which I 
was most anxious to practise. But show me an old castle 
or a field of battle, and I was at home at once, filled it 
with its combatants in their proper costume, and over- 
whelmed my hearers by the enthusiasm of my description. 
In crossing Magus Moor, near St. Andrews, the spirit 
moved me to give a picture of the assassination of the 
Archbishop of St. Andrews to some fellow-travellers with 
whom I was accidentally associated, and one of them, 
though well acquainted with the story, protested my nar- 
rative had frightened away his night's sleep. I mention 
this to show the distinction between a sense of the pic- 
turesque in action and in scenery. If I have since been 
able in poetry to trace with some success Jthe principles 
of the latter, it has always been with reference to its 
general and leading features, or under some alliance with 
moral feeling; and even this proficiency has cost me 
study. — Meanwhile I endeavored to make amends for 
my ignorance of drawing, by adopting a sort of technical 
memory respecting the scenes I visited. Wherever I 
went, I cut a piece of a branch from a tree — these con- 
stituted what I called my log-book; and I intended to 
have 'a set of chessmen out of them, each having refer- 
ence to the place where it was cut — as the kings from 
Falkland and Holy-Eood; the queens from Queen Mary's 
yew-tree at Crookston ; the bishops from abbeys or epis- 
copal palaces ; the knights from baronial residences ; the 
rooks from royal fortresses; and the pawns generally 
from places worthy of historical note. But this whimsi- 
cal design I never carried into execution. 


With music it was even worse than with painting. 
My mother was anxious we should at least learn Psal- 
mody; but the incurable defects of my Toice and ear soon 
drove my teacher to despair.^ It is only by long prac- 
tice that I have acquired the power of selecting or distin- 
guishing melodies ; and although now few things delight 
or affect me more than a simple tune sung with feeling, 
yet I am sensible that even this pitch of musical taste 
has only been gained by attention and habit, and, as it 
were, by my feeling of the words being associated with 
the tune. I have, therefore, been usually unsuccessful 
in composing words to a tune, although my friend. Dr. 
Clarke, and other musical composers, have sometimes 
been able to make a happy union between their music 
and my poetry. 

In other points, however, I began to make some 
amends for the irregularity of my education. It is well 
known that in Edinburgh one great spur to emulation 
among youthful students is in those associations called 
literary societies, formed not only for the purpose of de- 
bate, but of composition. These undoubtedly have some 
disadvantages, where a bold, petulant, and disputatious 
temper happens to be combined with considerable in- 
formation and talent. Still, however, in order to such a 

^ The late Alexander Campbell, a warm-liearted man, and an enthnsi- 
aat in Soottisli music, which he sang most beautifully, had this ungrate- 
ful task imposed on him. He was a man of many accomplishments, but 
dashed with a bizarrerte of temper which made them useless to their pro- 
.prietor. He wrote several hooks — as a Tour in Scotland, etc. ; — and he 
made an advantageous marriage, but fell nevertheless into distressed cir- 
cumstances, which I had the pleasure of relieving, if I could not remove. 
His sense of gratitude was very strong, and showed itself oddly in one re- 
spect. He would never allow that I had a, bad ear ; but contended, that 
if I did not understand music, it was because I did not choose to learn it. 
But when he attended us in George's Square, our neighbor, Lady Gum- 
ming, sent to beg the boys might not be all flogged precisely at the same 
hour, as, though she had no doubt the punishment was deserved, the noise 
of the concord was really dreadful, Robert was the only one of our family 
who could sing, though my father was musical, and a performer on the 
violoncello at the gentlemen'' s concerts. — (1826.) 


person being actually spoiled by his mixing in such de- 
bates, his talents must be of a very rare nature, or his 
effrontery must be proof to every species of assault ; for 
there is generally, in a well-selected society of this na- 
ture, talent sufficient to meet the forwardest, and satire 
enough to penetrate the most undaunted. I am particu- 
larly obliged to this sort of club for introducing me about 
my seventeenth year into the society which at one time I 
had entirely dropped ; for, from the time of my illness at 
college, I had had little or no intercourse with any of my 
class-companions, one or two only excepted. Now, how- 
ever, about 1788, I began to feel and take my ground in 
society. A ready wit, a good deal of enthusiasm, and a 
perception that soon ripened into tact and observation of 
character, rendered me an acceptable companion to many 
young men whose acquisitions in philosophy and science 
were infinitely superior to anything I could boast. 

In the business of these societies — for I was a member 
of more than one successively — I cannot boast of having 
made any great figure. I never was a good speaker un- 
less upon some subject which strongly animated my feel- 
ings ; and, as I was totally unaccustomed to composition, 
as well as to the art of generalizing my ideas upon any 
subject, my literary essays were but very poor work. I 
never attempted them unless when compelled to do so by 
the regulations of the society, and then I was like the 
Lord of Castle Eackrent, who was obliged to cut down 
a tree to get a few fagots to boil the kettle; for the 
quantity of ponderous and miscellaneous knowledge, 
which I really possessed on many subjects, was not easily 
condensed, or brought to bear upon the object I wished 
particularly to become master of. Yet there occurred 
opportunities when this odd lumber of my brain, espe- 
cially that which was connected with the recondite parts 
of history, did me, as Hamlet says, "yeoman's service." 
My memory of events was like one of the large, old-fash- 
ioned stone-cannons of the Turks — very difficult to load 


well and discharge, but making a powerful effect when 
by good chance any object did come within range of its 
shot. Such fortunate opportunities of exploding with 
effect maintained my literary character among my com- 
panions, with whom I soon met with great indulgence and 
regard. The persons with whom I chiefly lived at this 
period of my youth were William Clerk, already men- 
tioned; James Edmonstoune, of Newton; George Aber- 
cromby; Adam Ferguson, son of the celebrated Profes- 
sor Ferguson, and who combined the lightest and most 
airy temper with the best and kindest disposition ; John 
Irving, already mentioned; the Honorable Thomas Dou- 
glas, now Earl of Selkirk ; David Boyle,^ — and two or 
three others, who sometimes plunged deeply into politics 
and metaphysics, and not unfrequently "doffed the world 
aside, and bid it pass." 

Looking back on these times, I cannot applaud in all 
respects the way in which our days were spent. There 
was too much idleness, and sometimes too much convi- 
viality : but our hearts were warm, our minds honorably 
bent on knowledge and literary distinction; and if I, 
certainly the least informed of the party, may be permit- 
ted to bear witness, we were not without the fair and 
creditable means of attaining the distinction to which we 
aspired. In this society I was naturally led to correct 
my formOT useless course of reading; for — feeling my- 
self greatly inferior to my companions in metaphysical 
philosophy and other branches of regular study — I 
labored, not without some success, to acquire at least 
such a portion of knowledge as might enable me to main- 
tain my rank in conversation. In this I succeeded pretty 
well; but unfortunately then, as often since through my 
life, I incurred the deserved ridicule of my friends from 
the superficial nature of my acquisitions, which being, 
in the mercantile phrase, got up for society, very often 
proved flimsy in the texture; and thus the gifts of an 
* Now Lord Jnstice-CIerb.— (1826.) 


uncommonly retentive memory and acute powers of per- 
ception were sometimes detrimental to their possessor by 
encouraging him to a presumptuous reliance upon them. 

Amidst these studies, and in this society, the time of 
my apprenticeship elapsed; and in 1790, or thereabouts, 
it became necessary that I should seriously consider to 
which department of the law I was to attach myself. My 
father behaved with the most parental kindness. He 
offered, if I preferred his own profession, immediately to 
take me into partnership with him, which, though his 
business was much diminished, still afforded me an im- 
mediate prospect of a handsome independence. But he 
did not disguise his wish that I should relin(juish this 
situation to my younger brother, and embrace the more 
ambitious profession of the Bar. I had little hesitation 
in making my choice — for I was never very fond of 
money; and in no other particular do the professions 
admit of a comparison. Besides, I knew and felt the in- 
conveniences attached to that of a Writer; and I thought 
(like a young man) many of them were "ingenio non 
subeunda meo." The appearance of personal dependence 
which that profession requires was disagreea,ble to me; 
the sort of connection between the client and the attorney 
seemed to render the latter more subservient than was 
quite agreeable to my nature ; and, besides, I had seen 
many sad examples, while overlooking my father's busi- 
ness, that the utmost exertions, and the best meant ser- 
vices, do not secure the man of business, as he is called, 
from great loss, and most ungracious treatment on the 
part of his employers. The Bar, though I was conscious 
of my deficiencies as a public speaker, was the line of 
ambition and liberty ; it was that also for which most of 
my contemporary friends were destined. And, lastly, 
although I would willingly have relieved my father of 
the labors of his business, yet I saw plainly we could not 
have agreed on some particulars if we had attempted to 
conduct it together, and that I should disappoint his 


expectations if I did not turn to the Bar. So to that 
object my studies were directed with great ardor and 
perseverance during the years 1789, 1790, 1791, 1792. 

In the usual course of study, the Roman or Civil Law 
was the first object of my attention — the second, the 
Municipal Law of Scotland. In the course of reading 
on both subjects, I had the advantage of studying in 
conjunction with my friend William Clerk, a man of the 
most acute intellects and powerful apprehension, and 
who, should he ever shake loose the fetters of indolence 
by which he has been hitherto trammelled, cannot fail to 
be distinguished in the highest degree. We attended 
the regular classes of both laws in the University of Edin- 
burgh. The Civil Law chair, now worthily filled by 
Mr. Alexander Irving, might at that time be considered 
as in abeyance, since the person by whom it was occupied 
had never been fit for the situation, and was then almost 
in a state of dotage. But the Scotch Law lectures were 
those of Mr. David Hume, who still continues to occupy 
that situation with as much honor to himself as advantage 
to his country. I copied over his lectures twice with my 
own hand, from notes taken in the class; and when I 
have had occasion to consult them, I can never suffi- 
ciently admire the penetration and clearness of conception 
which were necessary to the arrangement of the fabric of 
law, formed originally under the strictest influence of 
feudal principles, and innovated, altered, and broken in 
upon by the change of times, of habits, and of manners, 
until it resembles some ancient castle, partly entire, 
partly ruinous, partly dilapidated, patched and altered 
during the succession of ages by a thousand additions and 
combinations, yet still exhibiting, with the marks of its 
antiquity, symptoms of the skill and wisdom of its found- 
ers, and capable of being analyzed and made the subject 
of a methodical plan by an architect who can understand 
the various styles of the different ages in which it was 
subjected to alteration. Such an architect has Mr. 


Hume been to the law of Scotland, neither wandering 
into fanciful and abstruse disquisitions, which are the 
more proper subject of the antiquary, nor satisfied with 
presenting to his pupils a dry and undigested detail of 
the laws in their present state, but combining the past 
state of our legal enactments with the present, and tra- 
cing clearly and judiciously the changes which took place, 
and the causes which led to them. 

Under these auspices I commenced my legal studies. 
A little parlor was assigned me in my father's house, 
which was spacious and convenient, and I took the exclu- 
sive possession of my new realms with all the feelings of 
novelty and liberty. Let me do justice to the only years 
of my life in which I applied to learning with stern, 
steady, andrundeviating industry. The rule of my friend 
Clerk and myself was that we should mutually qualify 
ourselves for undergoing an examination upon certain 
points of law every morning in the week, Sundays ex- 
cepted. This was at first to have taken place alternately 
at each other's houses, but we soon discovered that my 
friend's resolution was inadequate to severing him from 
his couch at the early hour fixed for this exercitation. 
Accordingly I agreed to go every morning to his house, 
which, being at the extremity of Prince's Street, New 
Town, was a walk of two miles. With great punctu- 
ality, however, I beat him up to his task every morning 
before seven o'clock, and in the course of two summers, 
we went, by way of question and answer, through the 
whole of Heineccius's Analysis of the Institutes and 
Pandects, as well as through the smaller copy of Er- 
skine's Institutes of the Law of Scotland. This course 
of study enabled us to pass with credit the usual trials, 
which, by the regulations of the Faculty of Advocates, 
must be undergone by every candidate for admission into 
their body. My friend William Clerk and I passed these 
ordeals on the same days — namely, the Civil Law trial 
on the [30th June, 1791], and the Scots Law trial on the 

50 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 20 

[6th July, 1792]. On the [11th July, 1792], we both 
assumed the gown with all its duties and honors. 

My progress in life during these two or three years 
had been gradually enlarging my acquaintance, and 
facilitating my entrance into good company. My father 
and mother, already advanced in life, saw little society 
at home, excepting that of near relations, or upon par- 
ticular occasions, so that I was left to form connections 
in a great measure for myself. It is not di£ficult for a 
youth with a real desire to please and be pleased, to make 
his way into good society in Edinburgh — or indeed any- 
where; and my family connections, if they did not greatly 
further, had nothing to embarrass my progress. I was 
a gentleman, and so welcome anywhere, if so be I could 
behave myself, as Tony Lumpkin says, "in a.concatena- 
tion accordingly," 




Sir Walter Scott opens his brief account of his an- 
cestry with a playful allusion to a trait of national char- 
acter, which has, time out of mind, furnished merriment 
to the neighbors of the Scotch; but the zeal of pedigree 
was deeply rooted in himself, and he would have been the 
last to treat it with serious disparagement. It has often 
been exhibited under circumstances sufficiently grotesque ; 
but it has lent strength to many a good impulse, sustained 
hope and self-respect under many a difficulty and dis- 
tress, armed heart and nerve to many a bold and resolute 
struggle for independence; and prompted also many a 
generous act of assistance, which under its influence alone 
could have been accepted without any feeling of degrada- 

He speaks modestly of his own descent; for, while 
none of his predecessors had ever sunk below the situa- 
tion and character of a gentleman, he had but to go three 
or four generations back, and thence, as far as they could 
be followed, either on the paternal or maternal side, they 
were to be found moving in the highest ranks of our 
baronage. When he fitted up, in his later years, the 
beautiful hall of Abbotsford, he was careful to have the 
armorial bearings of his forefathers blazoned in due order 
on the compartments of its roof; and there are few in 
Scotland, under the titled nobility, who could trace their 
blood to so many stocks of historical distinction. 


In the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, and Notes to 
The Lay of the Last Minstrel, the reader will find sundry 
notices of the "Bauld Kutherfords that were sae stout," 
and the Swintons of Swinton in Berwickshire, the two 
nearest houses on the maternal side. An illustrious old 
warrior of the latter family, Sir John Swinton, extolled 
by Froissart, is the hero of the dramatic sketch, Halidon 
Hill; and it is not to be omitted, that through the Swin- 
tons Sir Walter Scott could trace himself to WiUiam 
Alexander, Earl of Stirling, the poet and dramatist.^ 
His respect for the worthy barons of Newmains and Dry- 
burgh, of whom, in right of his father's mother, he was 
the representative, and in whose venerable sepulchre his 
remains now rest, was testified by his Memorials of the 
Haliburtons, a small volume printed (for private circu- 
lation only) in the year 1820. His own male ancestors 
of the family of Harden, whose lineage is traced by Dou- 
glas in his Baronage of Scotland back to the middle of 
the fourteenth century, when they branched off from the 
great blood of Buccleuch, have been so largely celebrated 
in his various writings, that I might perhaps content 
myself with a general reference to those pages, their only 
imperishable monument. The antique splendor of the 
ducal house itself has been dignified to all Europe by the 
pen of its remote descendant; but it may be doubted 
whether his genius could have been adequately developed, 
had he not attracted, at an early and critical period, the 
kindly recognition and support of the Buccleuchs. 

The race had been celebrated, however, long before 

^ On Sir Walter's copy of Becreations with the Miises, by William, Earl 
of Stirling, 1637, there is the following MS. note : — "Sir William Alex- 
ander, sixth Baron of Menstrie, and first Earl of Stirling, the friend of 
Drummond of Hawthomden and Ben Jonson, died in 1640. His eldest 
son, William, Viscount Canada, died before his father, leaving one son and 
three daughters by his wife, Lady Margaret Doaglas, eldest daughter of 
William, first Marquis of Douglas. Margaret, the sBeond of these daugh- 
ters, married Sir Bobert Sinclair of Longformacus in the Merse, to whom 
she bore two .daughters, Anne and Jean. Jean Sinclair, the younger 
daughter, married Sir John Swinton of Swinton ; and Jean Swinton, her 
eldest daughter, was the grandmother of the proprietor of this volume." 


Lis day, by a minstrel of its own; nor did he conceal Ms 
belief tbat he owed much to the influence exerted over 
his juvenile mind by the rude but enthusiastic clan- 
poetry of old Satchells, who describes himself on his 
title-page as 

" Captain Walter Scot, an old Souldier and no Scholler, 
And one that can write nana, 
But just the Letters of his Name." 

His True History of several honourable Families of the 
Eight Honourable Name of Scot, in the Shires of Eox- 
burgh and Selkirk, and others adjacent, gathered out of 
Ancient Chronicles, Histories, and Traditions of our 
Fathers, includes, among other things, a string of com- 
plimentary rhymes addressed to the first Laird of Kae- 
burn ; and the copy which had belonged to that gentle- 
man was in all likelihood about the first book of verses 
that fell into the poet's hand.^ How continually its 

* TTig family well remember the delig^ht which he expressed on. receiv- 
ing, in 1818, a copy of this first edition, a small dark quarto of 1688, from 
his friend Constable. He was breakfasting when the present was deliv- 
ered, and said, " This is indeed the resurrection of an old ally — I mind 
spelling these lines." He read aloud the jingling epistle to his own great- 
great-grandfather, which, like the rest, concludes with a broad hint, that 
as the aiuthor had neither lands nor flocks — " no estate left except his de- 
signation " — the more fortunate kinsman who enjoyed, like Jason of old, 
a fair share oi fleeces, might do worse than bestow on him some of King 
James's broad pieces. On rising from table. Sir Walter immediately wrote 
as follows on the blank leaf opposite to poor Satchells' honest title-page — 

" I, Walter Scott of Abbotsfoid, a poor scholar, no soldier, but a soldier's lover, 
In the style of my namesake and kinsman do hereby discover. 
That I have written the twenty-four letters twenty-four million times over ; 
And to every true-bom Scott I do wish as many golden pieces 
As ever were hairs in Jason's and Medea's golden fleeces." 

The rarity of the original edition of Satchells is such, that the copy now at 
Abbotsf ord was the only one Mr. Constable had ever seen — and no wonder, 
for the author's envoy is in these words : — 

" Begone, my book, stretch forth thy wmgs and fly 
Amongst the nobles and gentility ; 
Thou 'rt not to sell to scavengers and clowns, 
But given to worthy persons of renown. 
The number 's few I 've printed, in regard 
My charges have been great, and I hope reward ; 
I caus'd not print many above twelve score. 
And the printers are engaged that they shall print no more." 


wild and uncouth doggerel was on his lips to his latest 
day all his familiars can testify; and the passages which 
he quoted with the greatest zest were those commemora- 
tive of two ancient worthies, both of whom had had to 
contend against physical misfortune similar to his own. 
The former of these, according to Satchells, was the 
immediate founder of the branch originally designed of 
Sinton, afterwards of Harden : — 

" It is four hundred winteis past in order 
Since that Buccleuch was Warden in the Border ; 
A son he had at that same tide, 
Which was so lame could neither run nor ride. 
John, this lame son, if my author speaks true, 
He sent him to St. Mungo's in Glasgn, 
Where he remained a scholar's time, 
Then married a wife according to his mind. . . . 
And hetwizt them twa was procreat 
Headshaw, Askirk, Sinton, and Glack.'' 

But, if the scholarship of John the Lamiter furnished 
his descendant with many a mirthful allusion, a far 
greater favorite was the memory of William the Bolt- 
foot, who followed him in the sixth generation : — 

" The Laird and Lady of Harden 
Betwixt them procreat was a son 
Called William Boltfoot of Harden." 

The emphasis with which this next line was quoted I can 
never forget : — 

" He did survive to be A was." 

He was, in fact, one of the "prowest knights" of the 
whole genealogy — a fearless horseman and expert spear- 
man, renowned and dreaded ; and I suppose I have heard 
Sir Walter repeat a dozen times, as he was dashing into 
the Tweed or Ettrick, "rolling red from brae to brae," ' 
a stanza from what he called an old ballad, though it was 
most likely one of his own early imitations : — 

" To tak the foord he aye was first, 

Unless the English loons were near ; 
Plunge vassal than, plunge horse and man, 
Auld Boltfoot rides into the rear." 


"From childhood's earliest hour," says the poet in one 
of his last Journals, "I have rebelled against external 
circumstances." How largely the traditional famousness 
of the stalwart Boltfoot may have helped to develop this 
element of his character, I do not pretend to say; but I 
cannot avoid regretting that Lord Byron had not discov- 
ered such another "Deformed Transformed" among his 
own chivalrous progenitors. 

So long as Sir Walter retained his vigorous habits, 
he used to make an autumnal excursion, with whatever 
friend happened to be his guest at the time, to the tower 
of Harden, the incunabula of his race. A more pictur- 
esque scene for the fastness of a lineage of Border marau- 
ders could not be conceived; and so much did he delight 
in it, remote and inaccessible as its situation is, that, in 
the earlier part of his life, he had nearly availed himself 
of his kinsman's permission to fit up the dilapidated peel 
for his summer residence. Harden (the ravine of hares) 
is a deep, dark, and narrow glen, along which a little 
mountain brook flows to join the river Borthwick, itself 
a tributary of the Teviot. The castle is perched on the 
brink of the precipitous bank, and from the ruinous win- 
dows you look down into the crows' nests on the summits 
of the old mouldering elms, that have their roots on the 
margin of the stream far belo\i5 : — 

" Where Bortha hoarse, that loads the meads with sand, 
Rolls her red tide to Teviot's western strand, 
Through slaty hills, whose sides are shagged with thorn. 
Where springs in scattered tufts the dark-green com. 
Towers wood-girt Harden far above the vale, 
And clouds of ravens o'er the tmrets sail. 
A hardy race who never shrunk from war. 
The Scott, to rival realms a mighty bar, 
Here fixed his mountain home ; — a wide domain. 
And rich the soil, had purple heath been grain ; 
But what the niggard ground of wealth denied, 
From fields more bless'd his fearless arm supplied." ^ 

^ Leyden, the author of these beautiful lines, has borrowed, as The Lay 
of the Last Minstrel did also, from one of Satchells's primitive couplets — 

" If heather-tops had been com of the best, 
Then Bucclengh mill hod gotten a noble grist." 


It was to this wild retreat that the Harden of The Lay 
of the Last Minstrel, the Auld Wat of a hundred Border 
ditties, brought home, in 1567, his beautiful bride, Mary 
Scott, "the Flower of Yarrow," whose grace and gentle- 
ness have lived in song along with the stem virtues of 
her lord. She is said to have chiefly owed her celebrity 
to the gratitude of an English captive, a beautiful child, 
whom she rescued from the tender mercies of Wat's 
moss-troopers, on their return from a foray into Cumber- 
land. The youth grew up under her protection, and is 
believed to have been the composer both of the words 
and the music of many of the best old songs of the Bor- 
der. As Leyden says, 

" His are &e strains whose wandering echoes thrill 
The shepherd lingering on the twilight hill, 
When evening brings the merry folding honrs, 
And sun-eyed daisies close their winking flowers. 
He lived o'er Yarrow's Flower to shed the tear, 
To strew the holly leaves o'er Harden's bier ; 
But none was found above the minstrel's tomb, 
Emblem of peace, to bid the daisy bloom. 
He, nameless as the race from which he sprung. 
Saved other names, and left his own nnanng." 

We are told that when the last bullock which Auld 
Wat had provided from the English pastures was con- 
sumed, the Flower of Yarrow placed on her table a dish 
containing a pair of clean spurs ; a hint to the company 
that they must bestir themselves for their next dinner. 
Sir Walter adds, in a note to the Minstrelsy, "Upon 
one occasion when the village herd was driving out the 
cattle to pasture, the old laird heard him call loudly to 
drive out Harden's cow. ' Harden's com;/ ' echoed the 
affronted chief ; ' is it come to that pass ? By my faith 
they shall soon say Harden's kye ' (cows)." Accordingly, 
he sounded his bugle, set out with his followers, and next 
day returned with a how of hye, and a hassen'd (brin- 
dled) hull. On his return with this gallant prey, he 
passed a very large haystack. It occurred to the provi- 


dent laird that this would be extremely convenient to 
fodder his new stock of cattle ; but as no means of trans- 
porting it were obvious, he was fain to take leave of it 
with the apostrophe, now become proverbial — ' By my 
saul, had ye but four feet, ye should not stand lang 
there. ' In short, as Froissart says of a similar class of 
feudal robbers, nothing came amiss to them that was not 
too heavy or too hot." 

Another striking chapter in the genealogical history 
belongs to the marriage of Auld Wat's son and heir, 
afterwards Sir William Scott of Harden, distinguished 
by the early favor of James VI., and severely fined for 
his loyalty under the usurpation of Cromwell. The 
period of this gentleman's youth was a very wild one in 
that district. The Border clans still made war on each 
other occasionally, much in the fashion of their fore- 
fathers; and the young and handsome heir of Harden, 
engaging in a foray upon the lands of Sir Gideon Murray 
of Elibank, treasurer-depute of Scotland, was overpow- 
ered by that baron's retainers, and carried in shackles to 
his castle, now a heap of ruins, on the banks of the 
Tweed. Elibank's "doomtree" extended its broad arms 
close to the gates of his fortress, and the indignant laird 
was on the point of desiring his prisoner to say a last 
prayer, when his more considerate dame interposed milder 
counsels, suggesting that the culprit was born to a good 
estate, and that they had three unmarried daughters. 
Young Harden, not, it is said, without hesitation, agreed 
to save his life by taking the plainest of the three off 
their hands, and the contract of marriage, executed in- 
stantly on the parchment of a drum, is still in the char- 
ter-chest of his noble representative. 

Walter Scott, the third son of this couple, was the 
first Laird of Kaeburn, already alluded to as one of the 
patrons of Satehells. He married Isabel Macdougal, 
daughter of Macdougal of Makerstoun — a family of 
great antiquity and distinction in Koxburghshire, of 


whose bloodi through various alliances, the poet had a 
large share in his veins. Eaeburn, though the son and 
brother of two steady Cavaliers, and married into a family 
of the same political creed, became a Whig, and at last 
a Quaker ; and the reader will find, in one of the notes 
to The Heart of Mid-Lothian, a singular account of the 
persecution to which this backsliding exposed him at the 
hands of both his own and his wife's relations. He was 
incarcerated (a. j>. 1665), first at Edinburgh and then at 
Jedburgh, by order of the Privy Council — his children 
were forcibly taken from him, and a heavy sum was levied 
on his estate yearly, for the purposes of their education 
beyond the reach of his perilous influence. "It appears," 
says Sir Walter, in a MS. memorandum now before me, 
"that the Laird of Makerstoun, his brother-in-law, joined 
with Kaeburn's own elder brother. Harden, in this sin- 
gular persecution, as it will now be termed by Christians 
of all persuasions. It was observed by the people that 
the male line of the second Sir William of Harden be- 
came extinct in 1710, and that the representation of 
Makerstoun soon passed into the female line. They as- 
signed as a cause, that when the wife of Eaeburn found 
herself deprived of her husband, and refused permission 
even to see her children, she pronounced a malediction 
on her husband's brother as well as on her own, and prayed 
that a male of their body might not inherit their pro- 

The MS. adds, "of the first Eaebum's two sons it 
may be observed that, thanks to the discipline of the 
Privy Council, they were both good scholars." Of these 
sons, Walter, the second, was the poet's great-grand- 
father, the enthusiastic Jacobite of the autobiographical 
fragment, — who is introduced, 

" With amber beard and flaxen hair, 
And reverend apostolic air," 

in the epistle prefixed to the sixth canto of Marmion. A 


good portrait of Bearded Wat, painted for his friend 
Pitcairn, was presented by the Doctor's grandson, the 
Earl of Kellie, to the father of Sir Walter. It is now 
at Abbotsf ord ; and shows a considerable resemblance to 
the poet. Some verses addressed to the original by his 
kinsman Walter Scott of Harden are given in one of 
the Notes to Marmion. The old gentleman himself is 
said to have written verses occasionally, both English 
and Latin ; but I never heard more than the burden 
of a drinking-song — 

" Barba erescat, barba ereseat, 
Donee carduus revireacat," ^ 

Scantily as the worthy Jacobite seems to have been 
provided with this world's goods, he married the daugh- 
ter of a gentleman of good condition, "through whom," 
says the MS. memorandum already quoted, "his descend- 
ants have inherited a connection with some honorable 
branches of the Slioch nan Diarmid, or Clan of Camp- 
bell." To this connection Sir Walter owed, as we shall 
see hereafter, many of those early opportunities for study- 
ing the manners of the Highlandersi to which the world 
are indebted for Waverley, Bob Roy, and The Lady of 
the Lake. 

Eobert Scott, the son of Beardie, formed also an hon- 

^ Since this book was first published, I have seen in print A Poem on 
the Death of Master Walter Scott, who died at Kelso, November S, 17S9, writ- 
ten, it is said, by Sir William Scott of Thirlestane, Bait., the male ances- 
tor of Lord Napier. It has these lines : — 

" His converse breathed the Christian. On his tongue 
The praises of religion ever hling ; 
Whence it appeared he did on solid ground 
Conunend the pleasures which himself had found. . . • 
His venerable mien and goodly air 
Fix on our hearts impressions strong and foir. 
Full seventy years had shed their silvery glow 
Around his locks, and made his beard to grow ; 
That decent beard, which in becoming grace 
Did spread a reverend honor on his face," etc. — (1838.) 


orable alliance. His father-in-law, Thomas Haliburton,^ 
the last but one of the "good lairds of Newmains," en- 
tered his marriage as follows in the domestic record, 
which Sir Walter's pious respect induced him to have 
printed nearly a century afterwards: — "My second 
daughter Barbara is married to Eobert Scott, son to 
Walter Scott, uncle to Kaeburn, upon this sixteen day 
of July, 1728, at my house of Dryburgh, by Mr. James 
Innes, minister of Mertoun, their mothers being cou- 
sings; may the blessing of the Lord rest upon them, and 
make them comforts to each other and to all their rela- 
tions; " to which the editor of the Memorials adds this 
note — " May God grant that the prayers of the excel- 
lent persons who have passed away may avail for the' 
benefit of those who succeed them! — Aibotsford, Nov., 

I need scarcely remind the reader of the exquisite de- 
scription of the poet's grandfather, in the Introduction 
to the third canto of Marmion — 

- " the thatched mansion's gray-hair'd sire, 

Wise without learning, plain and good, 
And sprung of Scotland's gentler Mood ; 

1 " From the genealogical deduction in the Memorials, it appears that 
the Haliburtons of Kewmains were descended from and represented the 
ancient and once powerful family of Haliburton of Mertoun, which became 
extinct in the beginning of the eighteenth century. The first of this lat- 
ter family possessed the lands and barony of Mertoun by a charter granted 
by Archibald, Earl of I^ouglas and Lord of QaUoway (one of those tremen- 
dous lords whose coronets counterpoised the Scottish crown), to Henry de 
Haliburton, whom he designates as his standard-bearer, on account of his 
service to the earl in England. On this account the Haliburtons of Mer- 
toun and those of Newmains, in addition to the arms borne by the Hali- 
burtons of Dirleton (the ancient chiefs of that once great and powerful, but 
now almost extinguished name) — viz. or, on a bend azure, three mascles of 
the first — gave the distinctive bearing of a buckle of the second in the 
sinister canton. These arms stUl appear on various old tombs in the ab- 
beys of Melrose and Dryburgh, as well as on their house at Dryburgh, 
which was built in 1572." — MS. Memorandum, 1820. Sir Walter was 
served heir to these Haliburtons soon after the date of this Memorandum, 
and thenceforth quartered the arms above described with those of his 
paternal family. 


Whose eye, in age quick, clear, and keen, 
Showed what in youth its glance had been ; 
Whose doom discording neighbors sought. 
Content with equity uubonght." 

In the Preface to Guy Mannering, we have an anecdote 
of Eobert Scott in his earlier days: "My grandfather, 
while riding over Charterhouse Moor, then a very exten- 
sive common, fell suddenly among a large band of gyp- 
sies, who were carousing in a hollow surrounded by 
bushes. They instantly seized on his bridle with shouts 
of welcome, exclaiming that they had often dined at his 
expense, and he must now stay and share their cheer. 
My ancestor was a little alarmed, for he had more money 
about his person than he cared to risk in such society. 
However, being naturally a bold, lively spirited man, he 
entered into the humor of the thing, and sat down to the ' 
feast, which consisted of all the varieties of game, poul- 
try, pigs, and so forth, that could he collected by a wide 
and indiscriminate system of plunder. The dinner was 
a very merry one, but my relative got a hint from some 
of the older gypsies, just when ' the mirth and fun grew 
fast and furious,' and mounting his horse accordingly, 
he took a French leave of his entertainers." His grand- 
son might have reported more than one scene of the like 
sort in which he was himseK engaged, while hunting the 
same district, not in quest of foxes or of cattle sales, like 
the Goodman of Sandy-Knowe, but of ballads for the 
Minstrelsy. Gypsy stories, as we are told in the same 
Preface, were frequently in the mouth of the old man 
when his face "brightened at the evening fire," in the 
days of the poet's childhood. And he adds that, "as Dr. 
Johnson had a shadowy recollection of Queen Anne as 
a stately lady in black, adorned? with diamonds," so his 
own memory was haunted with "a solemn remembrance 
of a woman of more than female height, dressed in a long 
red cloak, who once made her appearance beneath the 
thatched roof of Sandy-Knowe, commenced acquaintance 


by giving him an apple, and whom he looked on, never- 
theless, with as much awe as the future doctor. High 
Church and Tory as he was doomed to be, could look 
upon the Queen." This was Madge Gordon, grand- 
daughter of Jean Gordon, the prototype of Meg Mer- 

Of Robert of Sandy-Knowe, also, there is a very toler- 
able portrait at Abbotsford, and the likeness of the poet 
to his grandfather must have forcibly struck every one 
who has seen it. Indeed, but for its wanting some inches 
in elevation of forehead — (a considerable want, it must 
be allowed) — the picture might be mistaken for one of 
Sir Walter Scott. The ke^n, shrewd expression of the 
eye, and the remarkable length and compression of the 
upper lip, bring him exactly before me as he appeared 
•when entering with aU the zeal of a professional agricul- 
turist into the merits of a pit of marie discovered at 
Abbotsford. Had the old man been represented with his 
cap on his head, the resemblance to one particular phasis 
of the most changeful of countenances would have been 

Eobert Scott had a numerous progeny, and Sir Walter 
has intimated his intention of recording several of them 
"with a sincere tribute of gratitude" in the contemplated 
prosecution of his autobiography. Two of the younger 
sons were bred to the naval service of the East India 
Company; one of whom died early and unmarried; the 
other was the excellent Captain Robert Scott, of whose 
kindness to his nephew some particulars are given in the 
Ashestiel fragment, and more will occur hereafter. 
Another son, Thomas, followed the profession of his 
father with ability, and retired in old age upon a hand- 
some independence, acqijjred by his industrious exertions. 
He was twice married, — first to his near relation, a 
daughter of Raeburn ; and secondly to Miss Rutherford 
of Know-South, the estate of which respectable family is 
now possessed by his son Charles Scott, an amiable and 


high-spirited gentleman, who was always a special favor- 
ite with his eminent kinsman. The death of Thomas 
Scott is thus recorded in one of the MS. notes on his 
nephew's own copy of the Haliburton Memorials: — 
"The said Thomas Scott died at Monklaw, near Jed- 
burgh, at two of the clock, 27th January, 1823, in the 
90th year of his life, and fully possessed of all his facul- 
ties. He read till nearly the year before his death; and 
being a great musician on the Scotch pipes, had, when 
on his deathbed, a favorite tune played over to him by 
his son James, that he might be sure he left him in full 
possession of it. After hearing it, he hummed it over 
himself, and corrected it in several of the notes. The 
air was that called Sour Plums in Galashiels. When 
barks and other tonics were given him during his last 
illness, he privately spat them into his handkerchief, 
saying, as he had lived all his life without taking doctor's 
drugs, he wished to die without doing so." 

I visited this old man two years before his death, in 
company with Sir Walter, and thought him about the 
most venerable figure I had ever set my eyes on — tall 
and erect, with long flowing tresses of the most silvery 
whiteness, and stockings rolled up over his knees, after 
the fashion of three generations back. He sat reading 
his Bible without spectacles, and did not, for a moment, 
perceive that any one had entered his room, but on recog- 
nizing his nephew he rose, with cordial alacrity, kissing 
him on both cheeks, and exclaiming, "God bless thee, 
Walter, my man ! thou hast risen to be great, but thou 
wast always good." His remarks were lively and saga- 
cious, and delivered with a touch of that humor which 
seems to have been shared by most of the family. He 
had the air and manner of an ancient gentleman, and 
must in his dky have been eminently handsome. I saw 
more than once, about the same period, this respectable 
man's sister, who had married her cousin Walter, Laird 
of Baeburn — thus adding a new link to the closeness of 


the family connection. She also must have been, in her 
youth, remarkable for personal attractions; as it was, 
she dwells on my memory as the perfect picture of an old 
Scotch lady, with a great deal of simple dignity in her 
bearing, but with the softest eye, and the sweetest voice, 
and a charm of meekness and gentleness about every look 
and expression; all which contrasted strikingly enough 
with the stern dry aspect and manners of her husband, 
a right descendant of the moss-troopers of Harden, who 
never seemed at his ease but on horseback, and continued 
to be the boldest fox-hunter of the district, even to the 
verge of eighty. The poet's aunt spoke her native lan- 
guage pure and undiluted, but without the slightest tincture 
of that vulgarity which now seems almost unavoidable in 
the oral use of a dialect so long banished from courts, and 
which has not been avoided by any modern writer who 
has ventured to introduce it, with the exception of Scott, 
and I may add, speaking generally, of Burns. Lady 
Eaeburn, as she was universally styled, may be numbered 
with those friends of early days whom her nephew has 
alluded to in one of his prefaces, as preserving what we 
may fancy to have been the old Scotch of Holyrood. 

The particulars which I have been setting down may 
help English readers to form some notion of the structure 
of society in those southern districts of Scotland. When 
Satchells wrote, he boasted that Buccleuch could summon 
to his banner one hundred lairds, all of his own name, 
with ten thousand more — landless men, but still of the 
same blood. The younger sons of these various lairds 
were, through many successive generations, portioned ofE 
with fragments of the inheritance, until such subdivision 
could be carried no farther, and theh the cadet, of neces- 
sity, either adopted the profession of arms, in some for- 
eign service very frequently, or became a cultivator on 
the estate of his own elder brother, of the chieftain of 
his branch, or of the great chief and patriarchal pro- 
tector of the whole clan. Until the commerce of Eng- 


land and, above- all, the military and civil services of the 
English colonies were thrown open to the enterprise of 
the Scotch, this system of things continued entire. It 
still remained in force to a considerable extent at the 
time when the Goodman of Sandy-Knowe was establish- 
ing his children in the world — and I am happy to say, 
that it is far from being abolished even at the present 
day. It was a system which bound together the various 
classes of the rural population in bonds of mutual love 
and confidence: the original community of lineage was 
equally remembered on all sides; the landlord could 
count for more than his rent on the tenant, who regarded 
him rather as a father or an elder brother, than as one 
who owed his superiority to mere wealth ; and the farmer 
who, on fit occasions, partook on equal terms of the chase 
and the hospitality of his landlord, went back with con- 
tent and satisfaction to the daily labors of a vocation 
which he found no one disposed to consider as derogating 
from his gentle blood. Such delusions, if delusions they 
were, held the natural arrogance of riches in check, 
taught the poor man to believe that in virtuous poverty 
he had nothing to blush for, and spread over the whole 
being of the community the gracious spirit of a primitive 

Walter Scott, the eldest son of Kobert of Sandy- 
Knowe, appears to have been the first of the family that 
ever adopted a town life, or anything claiming to be 
classed among the learned professions. His branch of 
the law, however, could not in those days be advanta- 
geously prosecuted without extensive connections in the 
country; his own were too respectable not to be of much 
service to him in his calling, and they were cultivated 
accordingly. His professional visits to Koxburghshire 
and Ettrick Forest were, in his vigorous life, very fre- 
quent; and though he was never supposed to have any 
tincture either of romance or poetry in his composition, 
he retained to the last a warm affection for his native dis- 


trict, with a certain reluctant flavor of the old feelings 
and prejudices of the Borderer. I have little to add to 
Sir Walter's short and respectful notice of his father, 
except that I have heard it confirmed by the testimony 
of many less partial observers. According to every 
account, he was a most just, honorable, conscientious 
man ; only too high of spirit for some parts of his busi- 
ness. "He passed from the cradle to the grave," says a 
surviving relation, "without making an enemy or losing 
a friend. He was a most affectionate parent, and if he 
discouraged, rather than otherwise, his son's early devo- 
tion to the pursuits which led him to the height of liter- 
ary eminence, it was only because he did not understand 
what such things meant, and considered it his duty to 
keep his young man to that path in which good sense and 
industry might, humanly speaking, be thought sure of 

Sir Walter's mother was short of stature, and by no 
means comely, at least after the days of her early youth. 
She had received, as became the daughter of an emi- 
nently learned physician, the best sort of education then 
bestowed on young gentlewomen in Scotland. The poet, 
speaking of Mrs. Euphemia Sinclair, the mistress of the 
school at which his jnother was reared, to the ingenious 
local antiquary, Mr. Eobert Chambers, said that "she 
must have been possessed of uncommon talents for educa- 
tion,' as all her young ladies were, in after-life, fond of 
reading, wrote and spelled admirably, were well ac- 
quainted with history and the belles-lettres, without neg- 
lecting the more homely duties of the needle and ac- 
compt book; and perfectly well-bred in society." Mr. 
Chambers adds: "Sir W. further communicated that his 
mother, and many others of Mrs. Sinclair's pupils, were 
sent afterwards to he finished off by the Honorable Mrs. 
Ogilvie, a lady who trained her young friends to a style 
of manners which would now be considered intolerably 
stiff. Such was the effect of this early training upon the 


mind of Mrs. Scott, that even when she approached her 
~ eightieth year, she took as much care to avoid touching 
her chair with her back as if she had still been under 
the stern eye of Mrs. Ogilvie."^ The physiognomy of 
the poet bore, if their portraits may be trusted, no 
resemblance to either of his parents. 

Mr. Scott was nearly thirty years of age when he mar- 
ried, and six children, born to him between 1759 and 
1766, all perished in infancy.^ A suspicion that the 
close situation of the College Wynd had been unfavorable 
to the health of his family was the motive that induced 
him to remove to the house which he ever afterwards 
occupied in George's Square.^ This removal took place 
shortly after the poet's birth; and the children born sub- 
sequently were in general healthy. Of a family of 
twelve, of whom six lived to maturity, not one now sur- 
vives; nor have any of them loft descendants, except Sir 
Walter himself, and his next and dearest brother, Thomas 

He says that his consciousness of existence dated from 
Sandy-Knowe; and how deep and indelible was the im- 
pression which its romantic localities had left on his im- 
agination, I need not remind the readers of Marmion and 
The Eve of St. John. On the summit of the Crags 

1 See Chambers's Traditions of Edinburgh, vol. ii. pp. 127-131. The 
functioiis here ascribed to Mrs. Ogilvie may appear to modern readers lit- 
tle consistent -with her rank. Snch things, however, -were not uncom- 
mon in those days in poor old Scotland. Ladies with whom I have con- 
versed in my youth well remembered an Honorable Mrs. Maitland who 
practised the obstetric art in the Cowgate. 

2 In Sir Walter Scott's desk, after his death, there was fonnd a little 
packet containing six locks of hair, with this inscription in the handwriting 
of his mother : — 

" 1. Anne Scott, bom March 10, 1759. 

2. Robert Scott, born August 22, 1760. 

3. John Scott, born November 28, 1761. 

4. Kobert Scott, bom June 7, 1763. 

5. Jean Scott, bom March 27, 1765. 

6. Walter Scott, born August 30, 1766. 

" All these are dead, and none of my present family was bom till some 
time afterwards." 
« [No. 25.] 


which overhang the farmhouse stands the ruined tower of 
Smailholme, the scene of that fine ballad ; and the view 
from thence takes in a wide expanse of the district in 
which, as has been truly said, every field has its battle, 
and every rivulet its song : — 

" That lady sat in moiimf nl mood, 
Looked over hill and vale, 
O'er Tweed's fair flood, and Mertonn's wood. 
And all down Teviotdale." — 

Mertoun, the principal seat of the Harden family, with 
its noble groves; nearly in front of it, across the Tweed, 
Lessudden, the comparatively small but still venerable 
and stately abode of the Lairds of Eaebum; and the 
hoary Abbey of Dryburgh, surrounded with yew-trees as 
ancient as itself, seem to lie almost below the feet of the 
spectator. Opposite him rise the purple peaks of Eildon, 
the traditional scene of Thomas the Ehymer's interview 
with the Queen of Faerie; behind are the blasted peel 
which the seer of Ercildoune himself inhabited, " the 
Broom of the Cowdenknowes," the pastoral valley of the 
Leader, and the bleak wilderness of Lammermoor. To 
the eastward, the desolate grandeur of Hume Castle 
breaks the horizon, as the eye travels towards the range 
of the Cheviot. A few miles westward, Melrose, "like 
some tall rock with lichens grey," appears clasped amidst 
the windings of the Tweed ; and the distance presents the 
serrated mountains of the Gala, the Ettrick, and the 
Yarrow, all famous in song. Such were the objects that 
had painted the earliest images on the eye of the last and 
greatest of the Border Minstrels. 

As his memory reached to an earlier period of child- 
hood than that of almost any other person, so assuredly 
no poet has given to the world a picture of the dawning 
feelings of life and genius, at once so simple, so beauti- 
ful, and so complete, as that of his epistle to William 
Erskine, the chief literary confidant and counsellor of his 
prime of manhood. 

1774 SANDY-KNOWE 69 

" Whether an impulse that has birth 
Soon as the infant wakes on earth, 
One with our feelings and our powers, 
And rather part of us than ours ; 
Or whether fitlier term'd the sway 
Of habit, formed in early day, 
Howe'er derived, its force confest 
Bules with despotic sway the breast. 
And drags us on by -viewless chain. 
While taste and reason plead in yain. . . . 
Thus, while I ape the measure wild 
Of tales that charm'd me yet a child. 
Rude though they be, still with the chime 
Keturn the thoughts of early time. 
And feelings rous'd in life's first day, 
Glow in the line and prompt the lay. 
Then rise those crags, that mountain tower 
Which charm'd my fancy's wakening hour. 
It was a barren scene and wild 
Where naked cliffs were rudely piled ; 
But ever and anon between 
Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green ; 
And well the lonely infant kne'tv 
Eecesses where the waU-flower grew, 
And honey-suckle loved to crawl 
Up the low crag and ruin'd wall. 
I deem'd such nooks the sweetest shade 
The sun in all its round surveyed ; 
And still I thought that shattered tower 
The mightiest work of human power. 
And marvelled as the aged hind, 
With some strange tale bevdtch'd my mind. 
Of forayers who, with headlong force, 
Down from that strength had spurr'd their horse, 
Their southern rapine to renew, 
Far in the distant Cheviots blue. 
And home returning, fill'd the hall 
With revel, wassail-rout, and brawl. 
Methought that still with trump and clang 
The gateway's broken arches rang ; 
Methought grim features, seam'd with soars, 
Glared through the windows' rusty bars ; 
And ever, by the winter hearth. 
Old tales I heard of woe or mirth. 
Of lovers' slights, of ladies' charms. 
Of witches' spells, of warriors' arms — 
Of patriot battles won of old 
By Wallace Wight and Bruce the Bold — 


Of later fields of fend and fight, 

When, pouring from their Highland height. 

The Scottish clans, in headlong sway, 

Had swept the scarlet ranks away. 

While stretched at length upon the floor, 

.A^ain I fought each combat o'er. 

Pebbles and shells, in order laid. 

The mimic ranks of wsir displayed. 

And onward still the Scottish Lion bore. 

And still the scattered Southron fled before." ^ 

There are still living in that neighborhood two old 
women who were in the domestic service of Sandy- 
Knowe when the lame child was brought thither in the 
third year of his age. One of them, Tibby Hunter, 
remembers his coming well; and that "he was a sweet- 
tempered bairn, a darling with all about the house." 
The young ewe-milkers delighted, she says, to carry him 
about on their backs among the crags; and he was "very 
gleg (quick) at the uptake, and soon kenned every sheep 
and lamb by headmark as well as any of them." His 
great pleasure, however, was in the society of the "aged 
hind," recorded in the epistle to Erskine. "Auld Sandy 
Ormistoun," called, from the most dignified part of his 
function, "the Cow -bailie," had the chief superintendence 
of the flocks that browsed upon "the velvet tufts of love- 
liest green." If the child saw him in the morning, he 
could not be satisfied unless the old man would set him 
astride on his shoulder, and take him to keep him com- 
pany as he lay watching his charge. 

" Here was poetic impulse given 
By the. green hill and clear bine heaven." 

The Cow-bailie blew a particular note on his whistle, 
which signified to the maid-servants in the house below 
when the little boy wished to be carried home again. He 
told his friend, Mr. Skene of Kubislaw, when spending 
a summer day in his old age among these well-remem- 
bered crags, that he delighted to roll about on the grass 
aU day long in the midst of the flock, and that "the sort 

1774 SANDY-KNOWE 71 

of fellowship he thus formed with the sheep and lambs 
had impressed his mind with a degree of affectionate feel- 
ing towards them which had lasted throughout life." 
There is a story of his having been forgotten one day 
among the knolls when a thunderstorm came on; and 
his aunt, suddenly recollecting his situation, and running 
out to bring him home, is said to have found him lying 
on his back, clapping his hands at the lightning, and 
crying out, "Bonny! bonny! " at every flash. 

I find the following marginal note on his copy of Allan 
Ramsay's Tea-Table Miscellany (edition 1724): "This 
book belonged to my grandfather, Eobert Scott, and out 
of it I was taught Hardiknute by heart before I could 
read the ballad myself. It was the first poem I ever 
learnt — the last I shall ever forget." According to 
Tibby Hunter, he was not particularly fond of his book, 
embracing every pretext for joining his friend the Cow- 
bailie out of doors; but "Miss Jenny was a grand hand 
at keeping him to the bit, and by degrees he came to read 
brawly."^ An early acquaintance of a higher class, 
Mrs. Duncan, the wife of the present excellent minister 
of Mertoun, informs me, that though she was younger 
than Sir Walter, she has a dim remembrance of the in- 
terior of Sandy-Knowe — "Old Mrs. Scott sitting, with 
her spinning-wheel, at one side of the fire, in a clean 
clean parlor; the grandfather, a good deal failed, in his 
elbow-chair opposite; and the little boy lying on the 
carpet, at the old man's feet, listening to the Bible, or 
whatever good book Miss Jenny was reading to them."^ 

1 This old woman still possesses " the banes " (bones) — that is to say, 
the boards — of a Psalm-book, which Master Walter gave her at Sandy- 
£nowe. " He chose it," she says, " of a very large print, that I might be 
able to read it when I was very auld — forty year auld ; but the bairns 
polled the leaves out langsyne." 

^ [In writing of his little grandson's earliest lessons, Scott recalls these 
days in a letter to Lockhart (March 3, 1826) : — 

" I rejoice to hear of Johnnie's grand flip towards instruction. I hope 
Mis. Mactavish, whom I like not the worse, you may be sure, for her 
name, will be mild in her rule, and let him listen to reading a good deal 


Kobert Scott died before his grandson was four years 
of age; and I heard him mention when he was an old 
man that he distinctly remembered the writing and seal- 
ing of the funeral letters, and all the ceremonial of the 
melancholy procession as it left Sandy -Knowe. I shall 
conclude my notices of the residence at Sandy-Knowe 
with observing that in Sir Walter's account of the 
friendly clergyman who so often sat at his grandfather's 
fireside, we cannot fail to trace many features of the se- 
cluded divine in the novel of St. Konan's Well. 

I have nothing to add to what he has told us of that 
excursion to England which interrupted his residence at 
Sandy-Knowe for about a twelvemonth, except that I 
had often been astonished, long before I read his auto- 
biographic fragment, with the minute recollection he 
seemed to possess of all the striking features of the city 
of Bath, which he had never seen again since he quitted 
it before he was six years of age. He has himself 
alluded, in his Memoir, to the lively recollection he 
retained of his first visit to the theatre, to which his 
Uncle Robert carried him to witness a representation of 
As You Like It. In his reviewal of the Life of John 
Kemble, written in 1826, he has recorded that impres- 
sion more fully, and in terms so striking, that I must 
copy them in this place : — 

" There are few things which those gifted with any degree of 
imagination recollect with a sense of more anxious and mysteri- 
ous delight than the first dramatic representation which they 
have witnessed. The unusual form of the house, filled with such 

without cramming the alphabet and grammar down the poor child's throat. 
I cannot at this moment tell how or when I learned to read, bnt it was 
by fits and snatches, as one annt or another in the old mmhle-tnmble 
farmhouses could give me a lesson, and I am sure it increased my love 
and habit of reading more than the austerities of a, school could have 
done. I gave trouble, I believe, in wishing to be taught, and in self-de- 
fence gradually acquired the mystery myself. Johnnie is infirm a little, 
though not so much so as I was, and often he has brought ba«k to my recol- 
lection the days of my own childhood. I hope he will be twice any good 
that was in me, with less carelessness.'' — Lang's Life of Lockkart, vol. i. 
p. 397.] 

1776 BATH 73 

groups of crowded spectators, themselves forming an extraor- 
dinary spectacle to the eye which has never witnessed it before, 
yet all intent upon that wide and mystic curtain, whose dusky 
undulations permit us now and then to discern the momentary 
glitter of some gaudy form, or the spangles of some sandalled 
foot, which trips lightly within : Then the light, brilliant as that 
of day ; then the music, which, in itself a treat sufficient in 
every other situation, our inexperience mistakes for the very 
play we came to witness ; then the slow rise of the shadowy cur- 
tain, disclosing, as if by actual magic, a new land, with woods, 
and mountains, and lakes, lighted, it seems to us, by another 
sun, and inhabited by a race of beings diEEerent from ourselves, 
whose language is poetry, — whose dress, demeanor, and sen- 
timents seem something supernatural, — and whose whole actions 
and discourse are calculated not for the ordinary tone of every- 
day life, but to excite the stronger and more powerful faculties 
— to melt with sorrow, overpower with terror, astonish with 
the marvellous, or convulse with irresistible' laughter : — all 
these wonders stamp indelible impressions on the memory. 
Those mixed feelings, also, which perplex us between a sense 
that the scene is but a plaything, and an interest which ever 
and anon surprises us into a transient belief that that which so 
strongly affects us cannot be fictitious ; those mixed and puz- 
zling feelings, also, are exciting in the highest degree. Then 
there are the bursts of applause, like distant thunder, and the 
permission afforded to clap our little hands, and add our own 
scream of delight to a sound so commanding. All this, and 
much, much more, is fresh in our memory, although, when we 
felt these sensations, we looked on the stage which Garrick had 
not yet left. It is now a long while since ; yet we have not 
passed many hours of such unmixed delight, and we still re- 
member the sinking lights, the dispersing crowd, with the vain 
longings which we felt that the music would again sound, the 
magic curtain once more arise, and the enchanting dream re- 
commence ; and the astonishment with which we looked upon 
the apathy of the elder part of our company, who, having the 
means, did not spend every evening in the theatre." ^ 

Probably it was this performance that first tempted 

1 Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. xx. p. 154. 


him to open-the page of Shakespeare. Before he returned 
to Sandy-Knowe, assuredly, notwithstanding the modest 
language of his autobiography, the progress which had 
been made in his intellectual education was extraor- 
dinary; and it is impossible to doubt that his hitherto 
almost sole tutoress, Miss Jenny Scott, must have been 
a woman of tastes and acquirements very far above what 
could have been often found among Scotch ladies, of any 
but the highest class at least, in that day. In the winter 
of 1777, she and her charge spent some few weeks — not 
happy weeks, the Memoir hints them to have been — 
in George's Square, Edinburgh; and it so happened, 
that during this little interval, Mr. and Mrs. Scott re- 
ceived in their domestic circle a guest capable of appre- 
ciating, and, fortunately for us, of recording in a very 
striking manner the remarkable development of young 
Walter's faculties. Mrs. Cockburn, mentioned by him 
in his Memoir as the authoress of the modern Flowers 
of the Forest, born a Rutherford, of Fairnalie, in Sel- 
kirkshire, was distantly related to the poet's mother, 
with whom she had through life been in habits of inti- 
mate friendship. This accomplished woman was staying 
at Eavelston, in the vicinity of Edinburgh, a seat of the 
Keiths of Dunnottar, nearly related to Mrs. Scott, and to 
herself. With some of that family she spent an evening 
in George's Square. She chanced to be writing next day 
to Dr. Douglas, the well-known and much respected 
minister of her native parish, Galashiels ; and her letter, 
of which the Doctor's son has kindly given me a copy, 
contains the following passage : — 

"Edinburgh, Saturday night, 35th of ' the gloomy month when the 
people of England hang and drown themselves.' 

..." I last night supped in Mr. Walter Scott's. He has 
the most extraordinary genius of a boy I ever saw. He was 
reading a poem to his mother when I went in. I made him 
read on ; it was the description of a shipwreck. His passion 
rose with the storm. He Ufted his eyes and hands. ' There 's 

1777 EDINBURGH 75 

the mast gone,' says he ; ' crash it goes ! — they will all perish ! ' 
After his agitation, he turns to me. ' That is too melancholy,' 
says he ; ' I had better read you something more amusing.' I 
preferred a little chat, and asked his opinion of Milton and 
other books he was reading, which he gave me wonderfully. 
One of his observations was, ' How strange it is that Adam, 
just new come into the world, should know everything — that 
must be the poet's fancy,' says he. But when he was told he 
was created perfect by God, he instantly yielded. When taken 
to bed last night, he told his aunt he liked that lady. ' What 
lady ? ' says she. ' Why, Mrs. Cockburn ; for I think she is a 
virtuoso like myself.' ' Dear Walter,' says Aunt Jenny, ' what 
is a virtuoso ? ' ' Don't ye know ? Why, it 's one who wishes 
and wiU know everything.' ^ — Now, sir, you will think- this a 
very silly story. Pray, what age do you suppose this boy to 
be ? Name it now, before I tell you. Why, twelve or four- 
teen. No such thing ; he is not quite six years old.^ He has 
a lame leg, for which he was a year at Bath, and has acquired 
the perfect English accent, which he has not lost since he came, 
and he reads like a Garrick. You wUl allow this an uncommon 

Some particulars in Mrs. Cockburn's account appear 
considerably at variance with what Sir Walter has told 
us respecting bis own boyish proficiency — especially in 
the article of pronunciation. On that last bead, bow- 
ever, Mrs. Cockburn was not, probably, a very accurate 
judge ; all that can be said is, that if at this early period 
he bad acquired anything which could be justly described 

^ It may amuse my leader to recall, by the side of Scott's early defini- 
tion of " a virtuoso," the lines in which Akenside has painted that charac- 
ter — lines which might have been written for a description of the Author 
of Waverley: — 

** He knew the various modes of ancient times, 

Tlieir arts and f asliions of eacli various guise ; 

Tbeir weddings, funerals, punishments of crimes ; 

Their strength, their learning eke, and rarities. 

Of old habiliment, each sort and size, 

Male, female, high and low, to him were known ; 

Each gladiator^s dress, and stage disguise. 

With learned clerkly phrase he could have shown." 

2 He was, in fact, six years and three months old before this letter was 


as an English accent, he soon lost, and never again re- 
covered, what he had thus gained from his short residence 
at Bath. In after-life his pronunciation of words, con- 
sidered separately, was seldom much different from that 
of a well-educated Englishman of his time; but he used 
many words in a sense which belonged to Scotland, not 
to England, and the tone and accent remained broadly 
Scotch, though, unless in the hurr, which no doubt 
smacked of the country bordering on Northumberland, 
there was no provincial peculiarity about his utterance. 
He had strong powers of mimicry — could talk with a 
peasant quite in his own style, and frequently in general 
society introduced rustic patois, northern, southern, or 
midland, with great truth and effect; but these things 
were inlaid dramatically, or playfully, upon his narra- 
tive. His exquisite taste in this matter was not less 
remarkable in his conversation than in the prose of his 
Scotch novels. 

Another lady, nearly connected with the Keiths of 
Ravelston, has a lively recollection of young Walter, 
when paying a visit much about the same period to his 
kind relation,^ the mistress of that picturesque old man- 
sion, which furnished him in after-days with many of the 
features of his Tully-Veolan, and whose venerable gar- 
dens, with their massive hedges of yew and holly, he 
always considered as the ideal of the art. The lady, 
whose letter I have now before me, says she distinctly 
remembers the sickly boy sitting at the gate of the house 
with his attendant, when a poor mendicant approached, 
old and woe-begone, to claim the charity which none 
asked for in vain at Kavelston. When the man was 
retiring, the servant remarked to Walter that he ought 
to be thankful to Providence for having placed him 
above the want and misery he had been contemplating. 
The child looked up with a half-wistful, half -incredulous 

^ Mis. Keith of Kavelston was born a Swinton of Swinton, and sister to 
Sir Walter's maternal grandmother. 

1777 SANDY-KNOWE 77 

expression, and said, "Homer was a heggar!" "How 
do you know that? " said the other. "Why, don't you 
remember," answered the little virtuoso, "that 

' Seven Soman cities strove for Homer dead, 
Through vrhich the living Homer begged his bread ? ' " 

The lady smiled at the "Roman cities," — but already 

" Each blank in faithless memory void 
The poet's glowing thought supplied." 

It was in this same year, 1777, that he spent some time 
at Prestonpans ; made his first acquaintance with George 
Constable, the original of his Monkbarns; explored the 
field where Colonel Gardiner received his death-wound, 
under the learned guidance of Dalgetty; and marked the 
spot "where the grass long grew rank and green, distin- 
guishing it from the rest of the field," ^ above the grave 
of poor Balmawhapple. 

His Uncle Thomas, whom I have described as I saw 
him in extreme old age at Monklaw, had the manage- 
ment of the farm affairs at Sandy-Knowe, when Walter 
returned thither from Prestonpans; he was a kind-hearted 
man, and very fond of the child. Appearing on his 
return somewhat strengthened, his uncle promoted him 
from the Cow-bailie's shoulder to a dwarf of the Shet- 
land race, not so large as many a Newfoundland dog. 
This creature walked freely into the house, and was 
regularly fed from the boy's hand. He soon learned to 
sit her well, and often alarmed Aunt Jenny, by cantering 
over the rough places about the tower. In the evening 
of his life, when he had a grandchild afSicted with an 
infirmity akin to his own, he provided him with a little 
mare of the same breed, and gave her the name of Ma- 
rion, in memory of this early favorite. 
1 WaiKTUy, chap, zlvii. note. 




The report of Walter's progress in horsemanship 
probably reminded his father that it was time he should 
be learning other things beyond the department either of 
Aunt Jenny or Uncle Thomas, and after a few months he 
was recalled to Edinburgh. But extraordinary as was 
the progress he had by this time made in that self -educa- 
tion which alone is of primary consequence to spirits of 
his order, he was found too deficient in lesser matters to 
be at once entered in the High School. Probably his 
mother dreaded, and deferred as long as she could, the 
day when he should be exposed to the rude collision of 
a crowd of boys. At all events he was placed first in a 
little private school kept by one Leechman in Bristo 
Port; and then, that experiment not answering expecta- 
tion, under the domestic tutorage of Mr. James French, 
afterwards minister of East Kilbride in Lanarkshire. 
This respectable man considered him fit to join Luke 
Eraser's class in October, 1778. 

His own account of his progress at this excellent semi- 
nary is, on the whole, very similar to what I have re- 
ceived from some of his surviving schoolfellows. His 
quick apprehension and powerful memory enabled him, 
at little cost of labor, to perform the usual routine of 
tasks, in such a manner as to keep him generally "in a 
decent place" (so he once expressed it to Mr. Skene) 
"about the middle of the class; with which," he contin- 


ued, "I was the better contented, that it chanced to be 
near the fire."^ Mr. Fraser was, I believe, more zealous 
in enforcing attention to the technicalities of grammar, 
than to excite curiosity about historical facts, or imagi- 
nation to strain after the flights of a poet. There is no 
evidence that Scott, though he speaks of him as his "kind 
master," in remembrance probably of sympathy for his 
physical infirmities, ever attracted his special notice with 
reference to scholarship; but Adam, the Eector, into 
whose class he passed in October, 1782, was, as his situ- 
ation demanded, a teacher of a more liberal caste; and 
though never, even under his guidance, did Walter fix 
and concentrate his ambition so as to maintain an emi- 
nent place, still the vivacity of his talents was observed, 
and the readiness of his memory in particular was so 
often displayed, that (as Mr. Irving, his chosen friend 
of that day, informs me) the Doctor "would constantly 
refer to him for dates, the particulars of battles, and 
other remarkable events alluded to in Horace, or what- 
ever author the boys were reading, and used to call him 
the historian of the class." No one who has read, as few 
have not. Dr. Adam's interesting work on Koman An- 
tiquities will doubt the author's capacity for stimulating 
such a mind as young Scott's. 

He speaks of himself as occasionally "glancing like a 
meteor from the bottom to the top of the form." His 
schoolfellow, Mr. Claud Kussell, remembers that he once 
made a great leap in consequence of the stupidity of 
some laggard on what is called the duWs (dolt's) bench, 
who being asked, on boggling at cum, "what part of 
speech is wi«A .?" answered, " a substantive." The Eec- 
tor, after a moment's pause, thought it worth while to ask 
his dux — "Is with ever a substantive?" but all were 

1 According to Mr. Irving's recollections, Scott's place, after the first 
winter, was usually between the 7th and the 15th from the top of the 
class. He adds, " Dr. James Buchan was always the dux; David Douglas 
(Lord Keston) second; and the present Lord Melville thirds 


silent until the query reached Scott, then near the bottom 
of the classjwho instantly responded by quoting a verse of 
the book of Judges: — "And Samson said unto Delilah, 
If they bind me with seven green withs that were never 
dried, then shall I be weak, and as another man."^ 
Another upward movement, accomplished in a less laud- 
able manner, but still one strikingly illustrative of his 
ingenious resources, I am enabled to preserve through 
the kindness of a brother poet and esteemed friend, to 
whom Sir Walter himself communicated it in the melan- 
choly twilight of his bright day. 

Mr. Kogers says — " Sitting one day alone with him 
in your house, in the Eegent's Park — (it was the day 
but one before he left it to embark at Portsmouth for 
Malta) — I led him, among other things, to tell me once 
again a story of himself, which he had formerly told me, 
and which I had often wished to recover. When I re- 
turned home, I wrote it down, as nearly as I could, in 
his own words; and here they are. The subject is an 
achievement worthy of Ulysses himself, and such as 
many of his schoolfellows could, no doubt, have related 
of him; but I fear I have done it no justice, though the 
story is so very characteristic that it should not be lost. 
The inimitable manner in which he told it — the glance 
of the eye, the turn of the head, and the light that played 
over his faded features, as, one by one, the circumstances 
came back to him, accompanied by a thousand boyish 
feelings, that had slept perhaps for years — there is no 
language, not even his own, could convey to you ; but you 
can supply them. Would that others could do so, who 
had not the good fortune to know him ! — The memoran- 
dum (Friday, October 21, 1831) is as follows : — 

"There was a boy in my class at school, who stood 
always at the top,^ nor could I with aU my efforts sup- 

' Chap. xvi. verse 7. 

' Mr. IrvJAg inclines to think that this incident mnst have oocnrred 
during Scott's attendance on Lnke Fraser, not after he went to Dr. Adam ; 
and he also suspects that the boy referred to sat at the top, not of the 
class, but of Scott's own bench or division of the class. 


plant him. Day came after day, and still he kept his 
place, do what I would ; till at length I observed that, 
when a question was asked him, he always fumbled with 
his fingers at a particular button in the lower part of his 
waistcoat. To remove it, therefore, became expedient in 
my eyes ; and in an evil moment it was removed with a 
knife. Great was my anxiety to know the success of my 
measure ; and it succeeded too well. When the boy was 
again questioned, his fingers sought again for the button, 
but it was not to be found. In his distress he looked 
down for it ; it was to be seen no more than to be felt. 
He stood confounded, and I took possession of his place ; 
nor did he ever recover it, or ever, I believe, suspect who 
was the author of his wrong. Often in after-life has the 
sight of him smote me as I passed by him; and often 
have I resolved to make him some reparation; but it 
ended in good resolutions. Though I never renewed my 
acquaintance with him, I often saw him, for he filled 
some inferior office in one of the courts of law at Edin- 
burgh. Poor fellow ! I believe he is dead ; he took early 
to drinking." 

The autobiography tells us that his translations in 
verse from Horace and Virgil were often approved by 
Dr. Adam. One of these little pieces, written in a weak 
boyish scrawl, within pencilled marks still visible, had 
been carefully preserved by his mother; it was found 
folded up in a cover inscribed by the old lady — "Jfy 
Walter's first lines, 1782." 

" In awful ruins ^tna thunders nigh, 
And sends in pitchy whirlwinds to the sky 
Black clouds of smoke, which, still as they aspire, 
From their dark sides there bursts the glowing fire ; 
At other times huge balls of fire are toss'd. 
That lick the stars, and in the smoke are lost : 
Sometimes the mount, with vast convulsions torn, 
Emits huge rocks, which instantly are borne 
With loud explosions to the starry skies. 
The stones made liquid as the huge mass flies. 
Then back again with greater weight recoils, 
While ^tna thundering from the bottom boils." 


I gather from Mr. Irving that these lines were consid- 
ered as the second best set of those produced on the occa- 
sion — Colin Mackenzie of Portmore, through life Scott's 
dear friend, carrying off the premium. 

In his Introduction to the Lay, he alludes to an ori- 
ginal effusion of these "schoolboy days," prompted by a 
thunderstorm, which he says "was much approved of, 
until a malevolent critic sprung up in the shape of an 
apothecary's blue-buskined wife, who affirmed that my 
most sweet poetry was copied from an old magazine. I 
never " (he continues) "forgave the imputation, and even 
now I acknowledge some resentment against the poor 
woman's memory. She indeed accused me unjustly 
when she said I had stolen my poem ready made ; but as 
I had, like most premature poets, copied all the words 
and ideas of which my verses consisted, she was so far 
right. I made one or two faint attempts at verse after 
I had undergone this sort of daw-plucking at the hands 
of the apothecary's wife, but some friend or other always 
advised me to put my verses into the fire; and, like 
Dorax in the play^ I submitted, though with a swelling 
heart." These lines, and another short piece "On the 
Setting Sun," were lately found wrapped up in a cover, 
inscribed by Dr. Adan^, "Walter Scott, July, 1783," 
and have been kindly transmitted to me by the gentle- 
man who discovered them. 


" Lond o'er my head thongh awful thunders roll, 
And Tivid lightnings flash from pole to pole, 
Tet 't is thy voice, my God, that bids them fly, 
Thy arm directs those lightnings through the sky. 
Then let the good thy mighty name revere. 
And hardened sinners thy just vengeance fear.'' 


" Those evening clouds, that setting ray 
And beauteous tints, serve to display 

Their great Creator's praise ; 
Then let the short-lived thing call'd man, 


Whose life 's comprised within a span, 
To Him his homage raise. 

" We often praise the evening clouds, 
And tints so g^ay and bold, 
But seldom think upon our Gfod, 

Who tinged these clouds with gold ! " l 

It must, I think, be allowed that these lines, though 
of the class to which the poet himself modestly ascribes 
them, and not to be compared with the efforts of Pope, 
still less of Cowley at the same period, show, neverthe- 
less, praiseworthy dexterity for a boy of twelve. 

The fragment tells us that on the whole he was "more 
distinguished in the yards (as the High School play- 
ground was called) than in the class ; " and this, not less 
than the intellectual advancement which years before 
had excited the admiration of Mrs. Cockburn, was the 
natural result of his lifelong "rebellion against external 
circumstances." He might now with very slender exer- 
tion have been the dux of his form; but if there was 
more difficulty, there was also more to whet his ambition, 
in the attempt to overcome the disadvantages of his physi- 
cal misfortune, and in spite of them assert equality with 
the best of his compeers on the ground which they consid- 
ered as the true arena of honor. He told me, in walking 
through these same yards forty years afterwards, that he 
had scarcely made his first appearance there, before some 
dispute arising, his opponent remarked that "there was 
no use to hargle-bargle with a cripple; " upon which he 
replied, that if he might fight mounted, he would try his 
hand with any one of his inches. "An elder boy," said 
he, "who had perhaps been chuckling over our friend 

1 I am obliged for these little memorials to the Bev. W. Steven of Rot- 
terdam, author of an interesting book on the history of the branch of the 
Scotch Church long established in Holland, and still flourishing under the 
protection of the enlightened govemiuent of that country. Mr. Steven 
found them in the course of his recent researches, undertaken with a view to 
some memoirs of the High School of Edinburgh, at which he had received 
his own early education. 

84 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. i i 

Eoderick Sandom when his mother supposed him to be in 
full cry after Pyrrhus or Porus, suggested that the two 
little tinklers might be lashed front to front upon a deal 
board — and — 'O gran bonta de' cavalier antichi ' — the 
proposal being forthwith agreed to, I received my first 
bloody nose in an attitude which would have entitled me, 
in the blessed days of personal cognizances, to assume 
that of a lioncel seiant gules. My pugilistic trophies 
here," he continued, "were all the results of such sittings 
in banco." Considering his utter ignorance of fear, the 
strength of his chest and upper limbs, and that the scien- 
tific part of pugUism never fiourished in Scotland, I dare 
say these trophies were not few. 

The mettle of the High School boys, however, was 
principally displayed elsewhere than in their own yards; 
and Sir Walter has furnished us with ample indications 
of the delight with which he found himself at length 
capable of rivalling others in such achievements as re- 
quired the exertion of active locomotive powers. Speak- 
ing of some scene of his infancy in one of his latest tales, 
he says — "Every step of the way after I have passed 
through the green already mentioned " (probably the 
Meadows behind George's Square) "has for me some- 
thing of an early remembrance. There is the stile at 
which I can recollect a cross child's-maid upbraiding me 
with my infirmity as she lifted me coarsely and carelessly 
over the flinty steps which my brothers traversed with 
shout and bound. I remember the suppressed bitterness 
of the moment, and, conscious of my own infirmity, the 
envy with which I regarded the easy movements and elas- 
tic steps of my more happily formed brethren. Alas ! " 
he adds, "these goodly barks have all perished in life's 
wide ocean, and only that which seemed, as the naval 
phrase goes, so little seaworthy, has reached the port 
when the tempest is over." How touching to compare 
with this passage that in which he records his pride in 
being found before he left the High School one of the 


boldest and nimblest climbers of "the kittle nine stanes," 
a passage of difficulty which might puzzle a chamois- 
hunter of the Alps, its steps, "few and far between," 
projected high in air from the precipitous black granite 
of the Castle rock. But climbing and fighting could 
sometimes be combined, and he has in almost the same 
page dwelt upon perhaps the most favorite of all these 
juvenile exploits — namely, "the manning of the Cow- 
gate Port," — in the season when snowballs could be 
employed by the young scorners of discipline for the 
annoyance of the Town-guard. To understand fully the 
feelings of a High School boy of that day with regard to 
those ancient Highlanders, who then formed the only 
police of the city of Edinburgh, the reader must consult 
the poetry of the scapegrace Fergusson. It was in defi- 
ance of their Lochaber axes that the Cowgate Port was 
manned — and many were the occasions on which its de- 
fence presented a formidable mimicry of warfare. "The 
gateway," Sir Walter adds, "is now demolished, and 
probably most of its garrison lie as low as the fortress ! 
To recoUect that I, however naturally disqualified, was 
one of these juvenile dreadnoughts, is a sad reflection for 
one who cannot now step over a brook without assist- 

I am unwilling to swell this narrative by extracts from 
Scott's published works, but there is one juvenile exploit 
told in the General Preface to the Waverley Novels, 
which I must crave leave to introduce here in his own 
language, because it is essentially necessary to complete 
our notion of his schoolboy life and character. "It is 
well known," he says, "that there is little boxing at the 
Scottish schools. About forty or fifty years ago, how- 
ever, a far more dangerous mode of fighting, in parties 
or factions, was permitted in the streets of Edinburgh, 
to the great disgrace of the police, and danger of the 
parties concerned. These parties were generally formed 
from the quarters of the town in which the combatants 

86 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. i i 

resided, those of a particular square or district fighting 
against those of an adjoining one. Hence it happened 
that the children of the higher classes were often pitted 
against those of the lower, each taking their side accord- 
ing to the residence of their friends. So far as I recol- 
lect, however, it was unmingled either with feelings of 
democracy or aristocracy, or indeed with malice or ill- 
will of any kind towards the opposite party. In fact, it 
was only a rough mode of play. Such contests were, 
however, maintained with great vigor with stones, and 
sticks, and fisticuffs, when one party dared to charge, 
and the other stood their ground. Of course, mischief 
sometimes happened; boys are said to have been killed 
at these hiclcers, as they were called, and serious acci- 
dents certainly took place, as many contemporaries can 
bear witness. 

"The author's father residing in George's Square, in 
the southern side of Edinburgh, the boys belonging to 
that family, with others in the square, were arranged into 
a sort of company, to which a lady of distinction pre- 
sented a handsome set of colors.^ Now, this company or 
regiment, as a matter of course, was engaged in weekly 
warfare with the boys inhabiting the Cross-causeway, 
Bristo-Street, the Potterrow — in short, the neighboring 
suburbs. These last were chiefly of the lower rank, but 
hardy loons, who threw stones to a hair's-breadth, and 
were very rugged antagonists at close quarters. The 
skirmish sometimes lasted for a whole evening, until one 
party or the other was victorious, when, if ours were suc- 
cessful, we drove the enemy to their quarters, and were 
usually chased back by the reinforcement of bigger lads 
who came to their assistance. If, on the contrary, we 
were pursued, as was often the case, into the precincts of 
our square, we were in our turn supported by our elder 
brothers, domestic servants, and similar auxiliaries. It 
followed, from our frequent opposition to each other, 
^ This yonng patroness was the Duchess-Countess of Sutherland. 


that, though not knowing the names of our enemies, we 
were yet well acquainted with their appearance, and had 
nicknames for the most remarkable of them. One very 
active and spirited boy might be considered as the prin- 
cipal leader in the cohort of the suburbs. He was, I 
suppose, thirteen or fourteen years old, finely made, tall, 
blue-eyed, with long fair hair, the very picture of a 
youthful Goth. This lad was always first in the charge, 
and last in the retreat — the Achilles at once and Ajax 
of the Cross-causeway. He was too formidable to us 
not to have a cognomen, and, like that of a knight of 
old, it was taken from the most remarkable part of his 
dress, being a pair of old green livery breeches, which 
was the principal part of his clothing; for, like Penta- 
polin, according to Don Quixote's account, Green-breeks, 
as we called him, always entered the battle with bare 
arms, legs, and feet. 

"It fell, that once upon a time when the combat was 
at its thickest, this plebeian champion headed a charge 
so rapid and furious, that all fled before him. He was 
several paces before his comrades, and had actually laid 
his hands upon the patrician standard, when one of our 
party, whom some misjudging friend had entrusted with 
a couteau de chasse, or hanger, inspired with a zeal for 
the honor of the corps, worthy of Major Sturgeon him- 
self, struck poor Green-breeks over the head, with 
strength sufficient to cut him down. When this was 
seen, the casualty was so far beyond what had ever taken 
place before, that both parties fled different ways, leaving 
poor Green-breeks, with his bright hair plentifully dab- 
bled in blood, to the care of the watchman, who (honest 
man) took care not to know who had done the mischief. 
The bloody hanger was thrown into one of the Meadow 
ditches, and solemn secrecy was sworn on all bands; but 
the remorse and terror of the actor were beyond all 
bounds, and his apprehensions of the most dreadful char- 
acter. The wounded hero was for a few days in the 


Infirmary, the case being only a trifling one. But though 
inquiry was strongly pressed on him, no argument could 
make him indicate the person from whom he had re- 
ceived the wound, though he must have been perfectly 
well known to him. When he recovered and was dis- 
missed, the author and his brothers opened a commimica- 
tion with him, through the medium of a popular ginger- 
bread baker, of whom both parties were customers, in 
order to tender a subsidy in the name of smart-money. 
The sum would excite ridicule were I to name it; but 
sure I am that the pockets of the noted Green-breeks 
never held as much money of his own. He declined the 
remittance, saying that he would not sell his blood; but 
at the same time reprobated the idea of being an in- 
former, which he said was dam, that is, base or mean. 
With much urgency, he accepted a pound of snuff for the 
use of some old woman — aunt, grandmother, or the like 
— with whom he lived. We did not become friends, for 
the hichers were more agreeable to both parties than any 
more pacific amusement; but we conducted them ever 
after under mutual assurances of the highest considera- 
tion for each other." Sir Walter adds — "Of five bro- 
thers, all healthy and promising in a degree far beyond 
one whose infancy was visited by personal infirmity, and 
whose health after this period seemed long very preca- 
rious, I am, nevertheless, the only survivor. The best 
loved, and the best deserving to be loved, who had des- 
tined this incident to be the foundation of a literary 
composition, died ' before his day, ' in a distant and for- 
eign land ; and trifles assume an importance not their own 
when connected with those who have been loved and 

During some part of his attendance on the High 
School, young Walter spent one hour daily at a small 
separate seminary of writing and arithmetic, kept by one 
Morton, where, as was, and I suppose continues to be, 
the custom of Edinburgh, young girls came for instruc- 


tion as well as boys; and one of Mr. Morton's female 
pupils has been kind enough to set down some little remi- 
niscences of Scott, who happened to sit at the same desk 
with herself. They appear to me the more interesting, 
because the lady had no acquaintance with him in the 
course of his subsequent life. Her nephew, Mr. James 
(the accomplished author of Richelieu), to whose friend- 
ship I owe her communication, assures me, too, that he 
had constantly heard her tell the same things in the very 
same way, as far back as his own memory reaches, many 
years before he had ever seen Sir Walter, or his aunt 
could have dreamt of surviving to assist in the biography 
of his early days. 

"He attracted," Mrs. Churnside says, "the regard and 
fondness of all his companions, for he was ever rational, 
fanciful, lively, and possessed of that urbane gentleness 
of manner which makes its way to the heart. His imag- 
ination was constantly at work, and he often so engrossed 
the attention of those who learnt with him, that little 
could be done — Mr. Morton himself being forced to 
laugh as much as the little scholars at the odd turns and 
devices he fell upon ; for he did nothing in the ordinary 
way, but, for example, even when he wanted ink to his 
pen, would get up some ludicrous story about sending his 
doggie to the mill again. He used also to interest us in 
a more serious way, by telling us the visions, as he called 
them, which he had lying alone on the floor or sofa, when 
kept from going to church on a Sunday by ill health. 
Child as I was, I could not help being highly delighted 
with his description of the glories he had seen — his misty 
and sublime sketches of the regions above, which he had 
visited in his trance. EecoUecting these descriptions, 
radiant and not gloomy as they were, I have often thought 
since that there must have been a bias in his mind to su- 
perstition — the marvellous seemed to have such power 
over him, though the mere offspring of his own imagina- 
tion, that the expression of his face, habitually that of 

90 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. i i 

genuine benevolence, mingled with a shrewd innocent 
humor, changed greatly while he was speaking of these 
things, and showed a deep intenseness of feeling, as if he 
were awed even by his own recital. ... I may add, that 
in walking he used always to keep his eyes turned down- 
wards as if thinking, but with a pleasing expression of 
countenance, as if enjoying his thoughts. Having once 
known him, it was impossible ever to forget him. In 
this manner, after all the changes of a long life, he con- 
stantly appears as fresh as yesterday to my mind's eye." 

This beautiful extract needs no commentary. I may 
as well, however, bear witness, that exactly as the school- 
boy still walks before her " mind's eye," his image rises 
familiarly to mine, who never saw him until he was past 
the middle of life : that I trace in every feature of her 
delineation the same gentleness of aspect and demeanor 
which the presence of the female sex, whether in silk or 
in russet, ever commanded in the man ; and that her de- 
scription of the change on his countenance when passing 
from the "doggie of the mill" to the dream of Paradise 
is a perfect picture of what no one that has heard him 
recite a fragment of high poetry, in the course of table 
talk, can ever forget. Strangers may catch some notion 
of what fondly dwells on the memory of every friend, by 
glancing from the conversational bust of Chantrey to 
the first portrait by Raeburn, which represents the Last 
Minstrel as musing in his prime within sight of Her- 

I believe it was about this time that, as he expresses 
it in one of his latest works, "the first images of horror 
from the scenes of real life were stamped upon his mind," 
by the tragical death of his great-aunt, Mrs. Margaret 
Swinton. This old lady, whose extraordinary nerve of 
character he illustrates largely in the introduction to the 
story of Aunt Margaret's Mirror, was now living with 
one female attendant, in a small house not far from Mr. 
Scott's residence in George's Square. The maid-servant, 


in a sudden access of insanity, struck her mistress to 
death with a coal-axe, and then rushed furiously into the 
street with the bloody weapon in her hand, proclaiming 
aloud the horror she had perpetrated. I need not dwell 
on the effects which must have been produced in a vir- 
tuous and affectionate circle by this shocking incident. 
The old lady had been tenderly attached to her nephew. 
"She was," he says, "our constant resource in sickness, 
or when we tired of noisy play, and closed round her to 
listen to her tales." 

It was at this same period that Mr. and Mrs. Scott 
received into their house, as tutor for their children, Mr. 
James Mitchell, of whom the Ashestiel Memoir gives us 
a description, such as I could not have presented had he 
been still alive. Mr. Mitchell was living, however, at 
the time of his pupil's death, and I am now not only at 
liberty to present Scott's unmutilated account of their 
intercourse, but enabled to. give also the most simple and 
characteristic narrative of the other party. I am sure no 
one, however nearly related to Mr. Mitchell, will now 
complain of seeing his keen-sighted pupil's sketch placed 
by the side, as it were, of the fuller portraiture drawn by 
the unconscious hand of the amiable and worthy man 
himself. The following is an extract from Mr. Mitchell's 
MS., entitled "Memorials of the most remarkable occur- 
rences and transactions of my life, drawn up in the hope 
that, when I shall be no more, they may be read with 
profit and pleasure by my children." The good man was 
so kind as to copy out one chapter for my use, as soon as 
he heard of Sir Walter Scott's death. He was then, and 
had for many years been, minister of a Presbyterian 
chapel at Wooler, in Northumberland, to which situation 
he had retired on losing his benefice at Montrose, in con- 
sequence of the Sabbatarian scruples alluded to in Scott's 

" In 1782," says Mr. Mitchell, " I became a tutor in Mr. 
Walter Scott's family. He was a Writer to the Signet in 


George's Square, Edinburgh. Mr. Scott was a fine-looking 
man, then a Uttle past the meridian of life, of dignified, yet 
agreeable manners. His business was extensive. He was a 
man of tried integrity, of strict morals, and had a respect for 
religion and its ordinances. The church the family attended 
was the Old Greyfriars, of which the celebrated Doctors 
Robertson and Erskine were the ministers. Thither went Mr. 
and Mrs. Scott every Sabbath, when well and at home, attended 
by their fine young family of children, and their domestic ser- 
vants — a sight so amiable and exemplary as often to excite in 
my breast a glow of heartfelt satisfaction. According to an 
established and laudable practice in the family, the heads of it, 
the children, and servants, were assembled on Sunday evenings 
in the drawing-room, and examined on the Church Catechism 
and sermons they had heard delivered during the course of the 
day ; on which occasions I had to perform the part of chaplain, 
and conclude with prayer. From Mrs. Scott I learned that 
Mr. Scott was one that had not been seduced from the paths of 
virtue ; but had been enabled to venerate good morals from his 
youth. When he first came to Edinburgh to follow out his 
profession, some of his schoolfellows, who, like him, had come 
to reside in Edinburgh, attempted to unhinge his principles, 
and corrupt his morals ; but when they found him resolute, and 
unshaken in his virtuous dispositions, they gav^ up the attempt ; 
but, instead of abandoning him altogether, they thought the 
more of him, and honored him with their confidence and patron- 
age ; which is certainly a great inducement to young men in the 
outset of life to act a similar part. 

" After having heard of his inflexible adherence to the cause 
of virtue in his youth, and his regular attendance on the ordi- 
nances of religion in after-life, we vsdll not be surprised to be 
told that he bore a sacred regard for the Sabbath, nor at the 
following anecdote illustrative of it. An opulent farmer of 
East Lothian had employed Mr. Scott as his agent, in a cause 
depending before the Court of Session. Having a curiosity to 
see something in the papers relative to the process, which were 
deposited in Mr. Scott's hands, this worldly man came into Edin- 
burgh on a Sunday to have an inspection of them. As there 
was no immediate necessity for this measure, Mr. Scott asked 
the farmer if an ordinary week-day would not answer equally 


well. The farmer was not willing to take this advice, but in- 
sisted on the production of his papers. Mr. Scott then deliv- 
ered them to him, saying, it was not his practice to engage in 
secular business on the Sabbath, and that he would have no dif- 
ficulty in Edinburgh to find some of his profession who would 
have none of his scruples. No wonder such a man was confided 
in, and greatly honored in his professional line. — All the poor 
services I did to his family were more than repaid by the com- 
fort and honor I had by being in the family, the pecuniary 
remuneration I received, and particularly by his recommenda- 
tion of me, some time afterwards, to the Magistrates and Town 
Council of Montrose, when there was a vacancy, and this brought 
me on the cavpet, which, as he said, was all he could do, as the 
settlement would ultimately hinge on a popular election. 

" Mrs. Scott was a wife in every respect worthy of such a 
husband. Like her partner, she was then a little past the me- 
ridian of life, of a prepossessing appearance, amiable manners, 
of a cultivated understanding, affectionate disposition, and fine 
taste. She was both able and disposed to soothe her husband's 
mind under the asperities of business, and to be a rich blessing 
to her numerous progeny. But what constituted her distin- 
guishing ornament was that she was sincerely religious. Some 
years previous to my entrance into the family, I understood 
from one of the servants she had been under deep religious con- 
cern about her soid's salvation, which had ultimately issued in 
a conviction of the truth of Christianity, and in the enjoyment 
of its divine consolations. She liked Dr. Erskine's sermons ; 
but was not fond of the Principal's, however rational, eloquent, 
and well composed, and would, if other things had answered, 
have gone, when he preached, to have heard Dr. Davidson. 
Mrs. Scott was a descendant of Dr. Daniel Kutherford, a pro- 
fessor in the Medical School of Edinburgh, and one of those 
eminent men, who, by learning and professional skill, brought 
it to the high pitch of celebrity to which it has attained. He was 
an excellent linguist, and, according to the custom of the times, 
delivered his prelections to the students in Latin. Mrs. Scott 
told me, that, when prescribing to his patients, it was his custom 
to offer up at the same time a prayer for the accompanying 
blessing of heaven ; a laudable practice, in which, I fear, he 
has not been generally imitated by those of his profession. 


" Mr. Scott's family consisted of six children, all of which 
were at home except the eldest, who was an o£&cer in the army ; 
and as they were of an age fit for instruction, they were all 
committed to my superintendence, which, in dependence on 
God, I exercised with an earnest and faithful regard to their 
temporal and spiritual good. As the most of them were tmder 
public teachers, the duty assigned me was mainly to assist them 
in the prosecution of their studies. In all the excellencies, 
whether as to temper, conduct, talents natural or acquired, 
which any of the children individually possessed, to Master 
Walter, since the celebrated Sir Walter, must a decided prefer- 
ence be ascribed. Though, like the rest of the children, placed 
under my tuition, the conducting of his education comparatively 
cost me but little trouble, being, by the quickness of his intellect, 
tenacity of memory, and diligent application to his studies, gen- 
erally equal of himself to the acquisition of those tasks I or others 
prescribed to him. So that Master Walter might be regarded 
not so much as a pupil of mine, but as a friend and companion, 
and, I may add, as an assistant also ; for, by his example and 
admonitions, he greatly strengthened my hands, and stimulated 
my other pupils to industry and good behavior. I seldom had 
occasion all the time I was in the family to find fault with him 
even for trifles, and only once to threaten serious castigation, 
of which he was no sooner aware than he suddenly sprung up, 
threw his arms about my neck, and kissed me. It is hardly 
needful to state, that now the intended castigation was no longer 
thought of. By such generous and noble conduct, my displear 
sure was in a moment converted into esteem and admiration ; 
my soul melted into tenderness, and I was ready to mingle my 
tears with his. Some incidents in reference to him in that early 
period, and some interesting and useful conversations I had 
with him, then deeply impressed on my mind, and which the 
lapse of near half a century has not yet obliterated, afforded no 
doubtful presage of his future greatness and celebrity. On my 
going into the family, as far as I can judge, he might be in his 
twelfth or thirteenth year, a boy in tiie rector's class. How- 
ever elevated above the other boys in genius, though generally 
in the Ust of the duxes, he was seldom, as far as I recollect, 
the leader of the school : nor need this be deemed surprising, as 
it has often been observed that boys of original genius have 


been outstripped, by those that were far inferior to themselves, 
in the acquisition of the dead languages. Dr. Adam, the rec- 
tor, celebrated for his knowledge of the Latin language, was 
deservedly held by Mr. Walter in high admiration and regard ; 
of which the following anecdote may be adduced as a proof. 
In the High School, as is well known, there are four masters and 
a rector. The classes of those masters the rector in rotation 
inspects, and in the mean time the master, whose school is exam- 
ined, goes in to take care of the rector's. One of the masters, 
on account of some grudge, had rudely assaulted and injured 
the venerable rector one night in the High School Wynd. The 
rector's scholars, exasperated at the outrage, at the instigation 
of Master Walter, determined on revenge, and which was to be 
executed when this obnoxious master should again come to teach 
the class. When this occurred, the task the class had prescribed 
to them was that passage in the ^neid of Virgil, where the 
Queen of Carthage interrogates the court as to the stranger 
that had come to her habitation — 

' Quia noTus hie hospes successit sedibus nostris ? ' ^ 

Master Walter, having taken a piece of paper, inscribed upon 
it these words, substituting varnis for novus, and pinned it to 
the tail of the master's coat, and turned him into ridicule by 
raising the laugh of the whole school against him. Though 
this juvenile action could not be justified on the footing of 
Christian principles, yet certainly it was so far honorable that it 
was not a dictate of personal revenge, but that it originated in 
respect for a worthy and injured man, and detestation of one 
whom he looked upon as a bad character. 

" One forenoon, on coming from the High School, he said he 
wished to know my opinion as to his conduct in a matter he 
should state to me. When passing through the High School 
Yards, he found a half-guinea piece on the ground. Instead 
of appropriating this to his own use, a sense of honesty led him 
to look around, and on doing so he espied a countryman, whom 
he suspected to be the proprietor. Having asked the man if he 

1 This transposition of hospes and nostris sufficiently confirms his pupil's 
statement that Mr. Mitchell " superintended his classical themes, hut not 
classically." The "obnoxious master" aUnded to was Bnms's friend 
Nicoll, the hero of the song — 

" Willie brewed a peck o' maut, 
And Rob and Allan cam' to see," etc. 


had lost anything, he searched his pockets, and then repl 
that he had lost half-a-guinea. Master Walter with pleas 
presented him with his lost treasure. In this transaction, 
ingenuity in finding out the proper owner, and his integritj 
restoring the property, met my most cordial approbation. 

"When in church. Master Walter had more of a sopor 
tendency than the rest of my young charge. This seemed to 
constitutional. He needed one or other of the family to aro 
him, and from this it might be inferred that he would cut a p 
figure on the Sabbath evening when examined about -the i 
mons. But what excited the admiration of the family was, t 
none of the children, however wakeful, could answer as he d 
The only way that I could account for this was, that when 
heard the text, and divisions of the subject, his good sei 
memory, and genius, supplied the thoughts which would 0C( 
to the preacher. 

"On one occasion, in the dining-room, when, according 
custom, he was reading some author in the time of relaxat 
from study, I asked him how he accounted for the superior 
of knowledge he possessed above the rest of the family. ] 
reply was : — Some years ago he had been attacked by a sw^ 
ing in one of his ankles, which confined him to the house, a 
prevented him taking amusement and exercise, and which v 
the cause of his lameness. As under this ailment he could i 
romp with his brothers and the other .young people in the gr( 
in George's Square, he found himself compelled to have recou 
to some substitute for the juvenile amusements of his comrad 
and this was reading. So that, to what he no doubt accoun 
a painful dispensation of Providence, he probably stood indebi 
for his future celebrity. When it was understood I was 
leave the family. Master Walter told me that he had a sn 
present to give me, to be kept as a memorandum of his frie: 
ship, and that it was of little value: 'But you know, 1 
Mitchell,' said he, ' that presents are not to be estimated acco 
ing to their intrinsic value, but according to the intention of 
donor.' This was his Adam's Grammar, which had seen hi 
service in its day, and had many animals and inscriptions on 
margins. This, to my regret, is no longer to he found in : 
collection of books, nor do I know what has become of it. 

" Since leaving the family, although no stranger to the wid 


spreading fame of Sir Walter, I have liad few opportunities of 
personal intercourse with him. When minister in the second 
charge of the Established Church at Montrose, he paid me a 
visit, and spent a night with me — few visits have been more 
gratifying. He was then on his return from Aberdeen, where 
he, as an advocate, had attended the Court of Justiciary in its 
northern circuit. Nor was his attendance in this court his sole 
object : another, and perhaps the principal, was, as he stated to 
me, to collect in his excursion ancient ballads and traditional 
stories about fairies, witches, and ghosts. Such intelligence 
proved to me as an electrical shock ; and as I then sincerely 
regretted, so do I stiU, that Sir Walter's precious time was so 
much devoted to the dulee, rather than the utile of composition, 
and that his great talent should have been wasted on such sub- 
jects. At the same time I feel happy to qualify this censure, 
as I am generally given to understand that his Novels are of a 
more pure and unexceptionable nature than characterizes writ- 
ings of a similar description ; while at the same time his pen 
has been occupied in the production of works of a better and 
nobler order. Impressed with the conviction that he would 
one day arrive at honor and influence in his native country, I 
endeavored to improve the occasion of his visit to secure his 
patronage in behalf of the strict and evangelical party in the 
Church of Scotland, in exerting himself to induce patrons to 
grant to the Christian people liberty to elect their own pastors 
in cases of vacancy. His answer struck me much : it was — 
' Nay, nay, Mr. Mitchell, I '11 not do that ; for if that were to 
be done, I and the like of me would have no life with such as 
you ; ' from which I inferred he thought that, were the evan- 
gelical clergy to obtain the superiority, they would ifltroduce 
such strictness of discipline as would not quadrate with the 
ideas of that party called the moderate in the Church of Scot- 
land, whose views, I presume. Sir Walter had now adopted. 
Some, however, to whom I have mentioned Sir Walter's reply, 
have suggested that I had misunderstood his meaning, and that 
what he said was not in earnest, but in jocularity and good- 
humor. This may be true, and certainly is a candid interpreta- 
tion. As to the ideal beings already mentioned as the subject 
of his inquiries, my materials were too scanty to afford him 
much information." 

98 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 1 2 

Notwithstanding the rigidly Presbyterian habits which 
this chronicle describes with so much more satisfaction 
than the corresponding page in the Ashestiel Memoir, 
I am reminded, by a communication already quoted from 
a lady of the Ravelston family, that Mrs. Scott, who 
had, she says, "a turn for literature quite uncommon 
among the ladies of the time„" encouraged her son in his 
passion for Shakespeare ; that his plays, and the Arabian 
Nights, were often read aloud in the family circle by 
Walter, "and served to spend many a happy evening 
hour;" nay, that, however good Mitchell may have 
frowned at such a suggestion, even Mr. Scott made little 
objection to his children, and some of their young friends, 
getting up private theatricals occasionally in the dining- 
room after the lessons of the day were over. The lady 
adds, that Walter was always the manager, and had the 
whole charge of the affair, and that the favorite piece 
used to be Jane Shore, in which he was the Hastings, 
his sister the Alicia. I have heard from another friend 
of the family that Bichard III. also was attempted, and 
that Walter took the part of the Duke of Gloucester, ob- 
serving that "the limp would do well enough to represent 
the hump." 

A story which I have seen in print, about his partak- 
ing in the dancing lessons of his brothers, I do not be- 
lieve. But it was during Mr. Mitchell's residence in 
the family that they all made their unsuccessful attempts 
in the 'art of music, under the auspices of poor Allister 
Campbell — the Editor of Albyn's Anthology. 

Mr. Mitchell appears to have terminated his superiii-* 
tendence before Walter left Dr. Adam, and in the inter- 
val between this and his entrance at College, he spent 
some time with his aunt, who now inhabited a cottage at 
Kelso ; but the Memoir, I suspect, gives too much exten- 
sion to that residence — which may be accounted for by 
his blending with it a similar visit which he paid to the 
same place during his College vacation of the next year. 

1783 KELSO 99 

Some of the features of Miss Jenny's abode at Kelso 
are alluded to in the Memoir, but the fullest descrip- 
tion of it occurs in his Essay on Landscape Gardening 
(1828), where, talking of grounds laid out in the Dutch 
taste, he says: — "Their rarity now entitles them to some 
care as a species of antiques, and unquestionably they 
give character to some snug, quiet, and sequestered situa- 
tions, which would otherwise have no marked feature of 
any kind. I retain an early and pleasing recollection .of 
the seclusion of such a scene. A small cottage, adjacent 
to a beautiful village, the habitation of an ancient maiden 
lady, was for some time my abode. It was situated in 
a garden of seven or eight acres, planted about the be- 
ginning of the eighteenth century by one of the Millars, 
related to the author of the Gardeners' Dictionary, or, 
for aught I know, by himself. It was full of long, 
straight walks, between hedges of yew and hornbeam, 
which rose tall and close on every side. There were 
thickets of flowery shrubs, a bower, and an arbor, to 
which access was obtained through a little maze of con- 
torted walks calling itself a labyrinth. In the centre of 
the bower was a splendid Platanus, or Oriental plane — 
a huge hill of leaves — one of the noblest specimens of 
that regularly beautiful tree which I remember to have 
seen. In different parts of the garden were fine orna- 
mental trees, which had attained great size, and the or- 
fchard was filled with fruit-trees of the best description. 
There were seats, and hilly walks, and a banqueting 
house. I visited this scene lately, after an absence of 
many years. Its air of retreat, the seclusion which its 
alleys afforded, was entirely gone; the huge Platanus 
had died, like most of its kind, in the beginning of this 
century; the hedges were cut down, the trees stubbed up, 
and the whole character of the place so destroyed that I 
was glad when I could leave it." It was under this 
Platanus that Scott first devoured Percy's Keliques. I 
remember well being with him, in 1820 or 1821, when 

loo SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 12 

he revisited the favorite scene, and the sadness of his 
looks when he discovered that the "huge hill of leaves" 
was no more. 

To keep up his scholarship while inhabiting the gar- 
den, he attended daily, as he informs us, the public 
school of Kelso, and here he made his. first acquaintance 
with a family, two members of which were intimately 
connected with the most important literary transactions 
of his after-life — James Ballantyne, the printer of al- 
most all his works, and his brother John, who had a 
share in the publication of many of them. Their father 
was a respectable tradesman in this pretty town. The 
elder of the brothers, who did not long survive his illus- 
trious frieiid, was kind enough to make an exertion on 
behalf of this work, while stretched on the bed from 
which he never rose, and dictated a valuable paper of 
memoranda, from which I shall here introduce my first 
extract : — 

" I think," says James Ballantyne, " it was in the year 1783 
that I first became acquainted with Sir Walter Scott, then a 
boy about my own age, at the Grammar School of Kelso, of 
which Mr. Lancelot Whale was the Rector. The impression 
left by his manners was, even at that early period, calculated 
to be deep, and I cannot recall any other instance in which the 
man and the boy continued to resemble each other so much and 
so long. Walter Scott was not a constant schoolfellow at this 
seminary ; he only attended it for a few weeks during the vaca- 
tion of the Edinburgh High School. He was then, as he con- 
tinued during all his after-life to be, devoted to antiquarian 
lore, and was certainly the best story-teUer I had ever heard, 
either then or since. He soon discovered that I was as fond of 
listening as he himself was of relating ; and I remember it was 
a thing of daily occurrence, that after he had made himself 
master of his own lesson, I, alas, being still sadly to seek in 
mine, he used to whisper to me, ' Come, sUnk over beside me, 
Jamie, and I '11 teU you a story.' I well recollect that he had 
a form, or seat, appropriated to himself, the particular reason 
of which I cannot tell, but he was always treated with a pecu- 


liar degree of respect, not by the boys of the different classes 
merely, but by the venerable Master Lancelot himself, who, an 
absent, grotesque being, betwixt six and seven feet high, was 
nevertheless an admirable scholar, and sure to be delighted to 
find any one so well qualified to sympathize with him as young 
Walter Scott ; and the affectionate gratitude of the young pupil 
was never intermitted, so long as his venerable master contin- 
ued to live. I may mention, in passing, that old Whale bore, 
in many particulars, a strong resemblance to Dominie Sampson, 
though, it must be admitted, combining more gentlemanly man- 
ners with equal classical lore, and, on the whole, being a much 
superior sort of person. In the intervals of school hours, it was 
our constant practice to walk together by the banks of the 
Tweed, our employment continuing exactly the same, for his 
stories seemed to be quite inexhaustible. This intercourse con- 
tinued during the summers of the years 1783-84, but was broken 
off in 1785-86, when I went into Edinburgh to College." 

Perhaps the separate seat assigned to Walter Scott by 
the Kelso schoolmaster was considered due to him as a 
temporary visitor from the great Edinburgh seminary. 
Very possibly, however, the worthy Mr. Whale thought 
of nothing but protecting his solitary student of Persius 
and Tacitus from the chances of being jostled among the 
adherents of Kuddiman and Cornelius Nepos. 

Another of his Kelso schoolfellows was Eobert Waldie 
(son of Mr. Waldie of Henderside), and to this connec- 
tion he owed, both while quartered in the garden, and 
afterwards at Rosebank, many kind attentions, of which 
he ever preserved a grateful recollection, and which have 
left strong traces on every page of his works in which he 
has occasion to introduce the Society of Friends. This 
young companion's mother, though always called in the 
neighborhood "Lady Waldie," belonged to that, commu- 
nity; and the style of life and manners depicted in the 
household of Joshua Geddes of Mount Sharon and his 
amiable sister, in some of the sweetest chapters of Eed- 
gauntlet, is a slightly decorated edition of what he wit- 


nessed under her hospitable roof. He records, in a note 
to the novel, the "liberality and benevolence" of this 
"kind old lady" in allowing him to "rummage at plea- 
sure, and carry home any volumes he chose of her small 
but valuable library;" annexing only the condition that 
he should "take at the same time some of the tracts 
printed for encouraging and extending the doctrines of 
her own sect. She did not," he adds, "even exact any 
assurance that I would read these performances, being 
too justly afraid of involving me in a breach of promise, 
but was merely desirous that I should have the chance of 
instruction within my reach, in case whim, curiosity, or 
accident, might induce me to have recourse to it." I 
remember the pleasure with which he read, late in life, 
Bome in the Nineteenth Century, an ingenious work pro- 
duced by one of Mrs. Waldie's granddaughters, and how 
comically he pictured the alarm with which his ancient 
friend would have perused some of its delineations of the 
high places of Popery. 

I shall be pardoned for adding a marginal note written, 
apparently late in Scott's life, on his copy of a little for- 
gotten volume, entitled Trifles in Verse, by a Young 
Soldier. "In 1783," he says, "or about that time, I 
remember John Marjoribanks, a smart recruiting officer 
in the village of Kelso, the Weekly Chronicle of which 
he filled with his love verses. His Delia was a Miss 
Dickson, daughter of a shopkeeper in the same village — 
his Gloriana a certain prudish old maiden lady, benempt 
Miss Goldie ; I think I see her still, with her thin arms 
sheathed in scarlet gloves, and crossed like two lobsters 
in a fishmonger's stand. Poor Delia was a very beautir 
ful girl, and not more conceited than a be-rhymed miss 
ought to be. Many years afterwards I found the Kelso 
beUe, thin and pale, her good looks gone, and her. smart 
dress neglected, governess to the brats of a Paisley manu- 
facturer. I ought to say there was not an atom of scandal 
in her flirtation with the young military poet. The 

1783 KELSO 103 

bard's fate was not much better; after some service in 
India and elsewhere, he led a half -pay life about Edin- 
burgh, and died there. There is a tenuity of thought iii 
what he has written, but his verses are usually easy, and 
I like them because they recall my schoolboy days, when 
I thought him a Horace, and his Delia a goddess." 




On returning to Edinburgh, and entering the College, 
in November, 1783, Scott found himself once more in 
the fellowship of all his intimates of the High School; of 
whom, besides those mentioned in the autobiographical 
fragment, he speaks in his diaries with particular affec- 
tion of Sir William Rae, Bart., David Monypenny (after- 
wards Lord Pitmilly), Thomas Tod, W. S., Sir Archi- 
bald Campbell of Succoth, Bart., all familiar friends of 
his through manhood, — and the Earl of Dalhousie,^ 
whom, on meeting with him after a long separation in 
the evening of life, he records as still being, and having 
always been, "the same manly and generous character 
that all about him loved as the Lordie Ramsay of the 
Yards." The chosen companion, however, continued to 
be for some time Mr. John Irving — his suburban walks 
with whom have been recollected so tenderly, both in the 
Memoir of 1808, and in the Preface to Waverley of 
1829. It wiU interest the reader to compare with those 
beautiful descriptions the following extract from a letter 
with which Mr. Irving has favored me : — 

"Every Saturday, and more frequently during the 
vacations, we used to retire, with three or four books 
from the circulating library, to Salisbury Crags, Arthur's 
Seat, or Blackford Hill, and read them together. He 

1 George, ninth Earl of Dalhonsie, highly distingaished in the military 
annals of his time, died on the 21st March, 1838, in his 68th year. 


read faster than I, and had, on this account, to wait a 
little at finishing every two pages, before turning the 
leaf. The books we most delighted in were romances of 
knight-errantry ; the Castle of Otranto, Spenser, Ariosto, 
and Boiardo were great favorites. We used to climb up 
the rocks in search of places where we might sit sheltered 
from the wind ; and the more inaccessible they were, the 
better we liked them. He was very expert at climbing. 
Sometimes we got into places where we found it difficult 
to move either up or down, and I recollect it being pro- 
posed, on several occasions, that I should go for a ladder 
to see and extricate him ; but I never had any need really 
to do so, for he always managed somehow either to get 
down or ascend to the top. The number of books we 
thus devoured was very great. I forgot great part of 
what I read; but my friend, notwithstanding he read 
with such rapidity, remained, to my surprise, master of it 
all, and could even weeks or months afterwards repeat a 
whole page in which anything had particularly struck him 
at the moment. After we had continued this practice of 
reading for two years or more together, he proposed that 
we should recite to each other alternately such adventures 
of knight-errants as we could ourselves contrive ; and we 
continued to do so a long while. He found no difficulty 
in it, and used to recite for half an hour or more at a 
time, while I seldom continued half that space. The 
stories we told were, as Sir Walter has said, intermin- 
able — for we were unwilling to have any of our favorite 
knights killed. Our passion for romance led us to learn 
Italian together ; after a time we could both read it with 
fluency, and we then copied such tales as we had met with 
in that language, being a continued succession of battles 
Iknd enchantments. He began early to collect old bal- 
lads, and as my mother could repeat a great many, he 
used to come and learn those she could recite to him. He 
used to get all the copies of these ballads he could, and 
select the best." 

io6 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 14 

These, no doubt, were among the germs of the collec- 
tion of ballads in six little volumes, which, from the 
handwritings had been begun at this early period, and 
which is still j)reserved at Abbotsford. And it appears 
that at least as early a date must be ascribed to another 
collection of little humorous stories in prose, the JPenny 
Chap-books, as they are called, still in high favor among 
the lower classes in Scotland, which stands on the same 
shelf. In a letter of 1830 ^ he states that he had bound 
up things of this kind to the extent of several volumes, 
before he was ten years old. 

Although the Ashestiel Memoir mentions so very 
lightly his boyish addiction to verse, and the rebuke 
which his vein received from the apothecary's blue-bus- 
kined wife as having been followed by similar treatment 
on the part of others, I am inclined to believe that while 
thus devouring, along with his young friend, the stories 
of Italian romance, he essayed, from time to time, to 
weave some of their materials, into rhyme; — nay, that 
he must have made at least one rather serious effort of 
this kind, as early as the date of these rambles to the 
Salisbury Crags. I have found among his mother's 
papers a copy of verses, headed, "Lines to Mr. Walter: 
Scott — on readinff his poem of Guiscard and Matilda, 
inscribed to Miss Keith of Bavdston." There is no 
date; but I conceive the lines bear internal evidence of 
having been written when he was very young — not, I 
should suppose, above fourteen or fifteen at most. I 
think it also certain that the writer was a woman ; and 
have almost as little doubt that they came from the pen 
of his old admirer, Mrs. Cockbum. They are as fol- 
lows : — 

" If such the accents of thy early youth 
When playful fancy holds the place of truth ; 
If so di-rinely sweet thy nnmhers flow, 
And thy young heart melts with such tender woe ; 

1 See Strang's Germany in 18S1, vol. i. p. 265. 


What praise, what admiration shall be thine, 
When sense mature with science shall combine 
To raise thy genius, and thy taste refine ! 

" Go on, dear youth, the glorious path pursue 
Which bounteous Nature kindly smooths for yon ; 
Go, bid the seeds her hand hath sown arise. 
By timely culture, to their native skies ; 
Go, and employ the poet's heavenly art. 
Hot merely to delight, bilt mend the heart. 
Than other poets happier mayst thou prove, 
More blest in friendship, fortunate in love. 
Whilst Fame, who longs to make true merit known. 
Impatient waits, to claim thee as her own. 

" Scorning the yoke of prejudice and pride, 
Thy tender mind let tmth and reason guide ; 
Let meek humility thy steps attend, 
And firm integrity, youth's surest friend. 
So peace and honor all thy hours shall bless, 
And conscious rectitude each joy increase ; 
A nobler meed be thine than empty praise — 
Heaven shaU approve thy life, and Keith thy lays." ' 

At the period to which I refer these verses, Scott's 
parents still continued to have some expectations of cur- 
ing his lameness, and Mr. Irving remembers to have 
often assisted in applying the electrical apparatus, on 
which for a considerable time they principally rested their 
hopes. There is an allusion to these experiments in Scott's 
autobiographical fragment, but I have found a fuller 
notice on the margin of his copy of the Guide to Health, 
Beauty, Eiches, and Longevity, as Captain Grose chose 
to entitle an amusing collection of quack advertisements. 

"The celebrated Dr. Graham," says the annotator, 
"was an empiric of some genius and greati assurance. In 

^ [Miss Fleming, in her contribution to Dr. John Brown's memorial of 
her sister Marjorie, says that these verses were written by her aunt, Mrs. 
Keir, after meeting the boy poet at Bavelston. Another aunt was the 
wife of Scott's kinsman, Mr. William Keith of Corstorphine Hill, and It 
was at her house, 1, North Charlotte Street, that Sir Walter came to know 
familiarly her delightful little niece, during her long visits to Edinburgh. 
These ladies and Mrs. Fleming were the daughters of Dr. James Eae. — 
See Marjorie FlemingJ] 

io8 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 14 

fact, lie had a dash of madness in his composition. He 
had a fine electrical apparatus, and used it with skill. I 
myself, amongst others, was subjected to a course of elec- 
tricity under his charge. I remember seeing the old 
Earl of Hopetoun seated In a large armchair, and hung 
round with a collar, and a belt of magnets, like an In- 
dian chief. After this, growing quite wild, Graham set 
up his Temple of Health, and lectured on the Cdestial 
Bed. He attempted a course of these lectures at Edin- 
burgh, and as the Magistrates refused to let him do so, 
he libelled them in a series of advertisements, the flights 
of which were infinitely more absurd and exalted than 
those which Grose has collected. In one tirade (long in 
my possession), he declared that ' he looked down upon 
them ' (the Magistrates) ' as the sun in his meridian glory 
looks down on the poor, feeble, stinking glimmer of an 
expiring farthing candle, or as G — himself, in the pleni- 
tude of his omnipotence, may regard the insolent boun- 
cings of a few refractory maggots in a rotten cheese.' 
Graham was a good-looking man; he used to come to the 
Greyfriars' Church in a suit of white and silver, with a 
chapeau-bras, and his hair marvellously dressed into a 
sort of double toupee, which divided upon his head like 
the two tops of Parnassus. Mrs. Macaulay, the histo- 
rianess, married his brother. Lady Hamilton is said to 
have first enacted his Goddess of Health, being at this 
time a fille de joie of great celebrity. ^ The Temple of 
Health dwindled into a sort of obscene hdl, or gambling 
house. In a quarrel which took place there, a poor 
young man was run into the bowels with a red-hot poker, 
of which injury he died. The mob vented their fury on 
the house, and the Magistrates, somewhat of the latest, 
shut up the exhibition. A quantity of glass and crystal 
trumpery, the remains of the splendid apparatus, was 
sold on the South Bridge for next to nothing. Graham's 

1 Lord Nelson's connection with this lady will preserve her celebrity. 
In Kay's Edinburgh Portraits the reader will find more about Dr. Graham. 


3xt receipt was the earth-bath, with which he wrought 
ime cures; but that also failing, he was, I believe, llter- 
ly starved to death." 

Graham's earth-bath, too, was, I understand, tried 
3on Scott, but his was not one of the cases, if any such 
lere were, in which it worked a cure. He, however, 
iproved about this time greatly in his general health 
id strength, and Mr. Irving, in ^accordance with the 
atement in the Memoir, assures me that while attend- 
g the early classes at the College the young friends ex- 
uded their walks, so as to visit in succession all the old 
,stles within eight or ten miles of Edinburgh. "Sir 
Salter," he says, " was specially fond of Eosslyn. We 
equently walked thither before breakfast — after break- 
sting there, walked all down the river side to Lasswade 
-and thence home to town before dinner. He used 
nerally to rest one hand upon my shoulder when we 
liked together, and leaned with the other on a stout 

The love of picturesque scenery, and especially of 
udal castles, with which the vicinity of Edinburgh is 
entifully garnished, awoke, as the Memoir tells us, the 
isire of being able to use the pencil. Mr. Irving says 
■ "I attended one summer a class of drawing along with 
m, but although both fond of it, we found it took up 

much time that we gave this up before we had made 
iich progress." In one of his later diaries, Scott him- 
If gives the following more particular account of this 
itter : — 

"I took lessons of oil-painting in youth from a little 
w animalcule — a smouch called Burrell — a clever, 
isible creature though. But I could make no progress 
her in painting or drawing. Nature denied me the 
rrectness of eye and neatness of hand. Yet I was very 
sirous to be a draughtsman at least — and labored 
rder to attain that point than at any other in my recol- 
ition to which I did not make some approaches. Bur- 


rell was not useless to me altogether neither. He was 
a Prussian, and I got from him many a long story of the 
battles of Frederick, in whose armies his father had been 
a commissary, or perhaps a spy. I remember his pictur- 
esque account of seeing a party of the hlack hussars 
bringing in some forage carts which they had taken from 
a body of the Cossacks, whom he described as lying on 
the top of the carts of hay mortally wounded, and, like 
the dying gladiator, eyeing their own blood as it ran 
down through the straw." 

A year or two later Scott renewed his attempt. "I 
afterwards," he says, "took lessons from "Walker, whom 
we used to call Blue Beard. He was one of the most 
conceited persons in the world, but a good teacher; one 
of the ugliest countenances he had that need be exhibited 
— enough, as we say, to spean weans. The man was 
always extremely precise in the quality of everything 
about him; his dress, accommodations, and everything 
else. He became insolvent, poor man, and, for some 
reason or other, I attended the meeting of those con- 
cerned in his affairs. Instead of ordinary accommoda- 
tions for writing, each of the persons present was equipped 
with a large sheet of drawing-paper and a swan's quill. 
It was mournfully ridiculous enough. Skirving made 
an admirable likeness of Walker; not a single scar or 
mark of the small-pox, which seamed his countenance, but 
the too accurate brother of the brush had faithfully laid 
it down in longitude and latitude. Poor Walker Ab- 
stroyed it (being in crayons) rather than let the carica- 
ture of his ugliness appear at the sale of his effects. I 
did learn myself to take some vile views from nature. 
When Will Clerk and I lived very much together, I used 
sometimes to make them under his instruction. He to 
whom, as to all his family, art is a familiar attribute, 
wondered at me as a Newfoundland dog would at a grey- 
hound which showed fear of the water." ^ 
1 [See Journal, toI. i. pp. 131-139.] 


Notwithstanding all that Scott says about the total 
failure of his attempts in the art of the pencil, I presume 
few will doubt that they proved very useful to him after- 
wards; from them it is natural to suppose he caught the 
habit of analyzing, with some approach at least to accu- 
racy, the scenes over which his eye might have continued 
to wander with the vague sense of delight. I may add 
that a longer and more successful practice of the crayon 
might, I cannot but think, have proved the reverse of 
serviceable to him as a future painter with the pen. He 
might have contracted the habit of copying from pictures 
rather than from nature itseK; and we should thus have 
lost that which constitutes the very highest charm in his 
delineations of scenery, namely, that the effect is pro- 
duced by the selection of a few striking features, arranged 
with a light, unconscious grace, neither too much nor too 
little — equally remote from the barren generalizations of 
a former age, and the dull, servile fidelity with which so 
many inferior writers of our time fill in both background 
and foreground, having no more notion of the perspective 
of genius than Chinese paper-stainers have of that of the 
atmosphere, and producing in fact not descriptions but 

The illness which he alludes to in his Memoir, as inter- 
rupting for a considerable period his attendance on the 
Latin and Greek classes in Edinburgh College, is spoken 
of more largely in one of his prefaces.^ It arose from 
the bursting of a blood-vessel in the lower bowels ; and 
I have heard him say that his uncle. Dr. Rutherford, con- 
sidered his recovery from it as little less than miracu- 
lous. His sweet temper and calm courage were no doubt 
important elements of safety. He submitted without a 
murmur to the severe discipline prescribed by his affec- 
tionate physician, and found consolation in poetry, ro- 
mance, and the enthusiasm of young friendship. Day 
after day John Irving relieved his mother and sister in 
1 Stee Preface to Waverleg, 1829. 

112 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 15 

their attendance upon him. The bed on which he lay 
was piled with a constant succession of works of imagi- 
nation, and sad realities were forgotten amidst the bril- 
liant day-dreams of genius drinking unwearied from the 
eternal fountains of Spenser and Shakespeare. Chess was 
recommended as a relief to these unintermitted, though 
desultory studies; and he engaged eagerly in the game 
which had found favor with so many of his Paladins. 
Mr. Irving remembers playing it with him hour after 
hour, in very cold weather, when, the windows being 
kept open as a part of the medical treatment, nothing 
but youthful nerves and spirit could have persevered. 
But Scott did not pursue the science of chess after his 
boyhoodi He used to say that it was a shame to throw 
away upon mastering a mere game, however ingenious, 
the time which would suffice for the acquisition of a new 
language. "Surely," he said, "chess-playing is a sad 
waste of brains." 

His recovery was completed by another visit to Eox- 
burghshire. Captain Eobert Scott, who had been so 
kind to the sickly infant at Bath, finally retired about 
this time from his profession, and purchased the elegant 
villa of Eosebank, on the Tweed, a little below Kelso. 
Here Walter now took up his quarters, and here, during 
all the rest of his youth, he found, whenever he chose, a 
second home, in many respects more agreeable than his 
own. His uncle, as letters to be subsequently quoted 
will show, had nothing of his father's coldness for polite 
letters, but entered into all his favorite pursuits with 
keen sympathy, and was consulted, from this time forth, 
upon all his juvenile essays, both in prose and verse. 

He does not seem to have resumed attendance at Col- 
lege during the session of 1785-86; so that the Latin 
and Greek classes, with that of Logic, were the only ones 
he had passed through previous to the signing of his in- 
dentures as an apprentice to his father. The Memoir 
mentions the ethical course of Dugald Stewart, as if he 


had gone immediately from the logical professor (Mr. 
Bruce) to that eminent lecturer; but he, in fact, attended 
Mr. Stewart four years afterwards, when beginning to 
consider himself as finally destined for the Bar. 

I shall only add to what he sets down on the subject of 
his early academical studies, that in this, as in almost 
every case, he appears to have underrated his own attain- 
ments. He had, indeed, no pretensions to the name of 
an extensive, far less of an accurate, Latin scholar; but 
he could read, I believe, any Latin author, of any age, so 
as to catch without difficulty his meaning; and although 
his favorite Latin poet, as well as historian, in later days, 
was Buchanan, he had preserved, or subsequently ac- 
quired, a strong relish for some others of more ancient 
date. I may mention, in particular, Lucan and Clau- 
dian. Of Greek, he does not exaggerate in saying that 
he had forgotten even the alphabet; for he was puzzled 
with the words aotSos and ■ttoiijtijj, which he had occasion 
to introduce, from some authority on his table, into his 
Introduction to Popular Poetry, written in April, 1830; 
and happening to be in the house with him at the time, 
he sent for me to insert them for him in his MS. Mr. 
Irving has informed us of the early period at which he 
enjoyed the real Tasso and Ariosto. I presume he had 
at least as soon as this enabled himself to read Gil Bias 
in the original; and, in all probability, we may refer to 
the same time of his life, or one not much later, his 
acquisition of as much Spanish as served for the Guerras 
Civiles de Granada, Lazarillo de Tormes, and, above all, 
Don Quixote. He read all these languages in after-life 
with about the same facility. I never but once heard 
him attempt to speak any of them, and that was when 
some of the courtiers of Charles X. came to Abbotsford, 
soon after that unfortunate prince took up his residence 
for the second time at Holyrood-house. Finding that one 
or two of these gentlemen could speak no English at all, 
he made some efforts to amuse them in their own Ian- 

114 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 15 

guage after the champagne had been passing briskly 
round the table; and I was amused next morning with 
the expression of one of the party, who, alluding to the 
sort of reading in which Sir Walter seemed to have 
chiefly occupied himself, said, " Mon Dieu! comme il 
estropiait, entre deux vins, le Frangais du bon sire de 
JoinvUle ! " Of all these tongues, as of German some- 
what later, he acquired as much as was needful for his 
own purposes, of which a critical study of any foreign 
language made at no time any part. In them he sought 
for incidents, and he found images ; but for the treasures 
of diction he was content to dig on British soil. He had 
all he wanted in the old wells of "English undefiled," 
and the still living, though fast shrinking, waters of that 
sister idiom which had not always, as he flattered him- 
self, deserved the name of a dialect. 

As may be said, I believe, with perfect truth of every 
really great man, Scott was self-educated in every branch 
of knowledge which he ever turned to account in the 
works of his genius — and he has himself told us that his 
real studies were those lonely and desultory ones of which 
he has given a copy in the third chapter of Waverley, 
where the hero is represented as "driving through the 
sea of books, like a vessel without pilot or rudder ; " that 
is to say, obeying nothing but the strong breath of native 
inclination : — "He had read, and stored in a memory of 
uncommon tenacity, much curious, though ill-arranged and 
miscellaneous information. In English literature, he 
was master of Shakespeare and Milton, of our earlier dra- 
matic authors, of many picturesque and interesting pas- 
sages from our old historical chronicles, and was particu- 
larly well acquainted with Spenser, Drayton, and other 
poets, who have exercised themselves on romantic fiction, 
— of all themes the most fasdnating to a youthful imagi- 
nation, before the passions have roused themselves, and 
demand poetry of a more sentimental description." I 
need not repeat his enumeration of other favorites, Pulci, 

1786 SELF-EDUCATION 1 1 5 

the Decameron, Froissart, Brantome, Delanoue, and the 
chivalrous and romantic lore of Spain. I have quoted 
a passage so \rell known, only for the sake of the striking 
circumstance by which it marks the very early date of 
these multifarious studies. 




In the Minute-books of the Society of Writers to the 
Signet appears the following entry: "Edinburgh, 15th 
May, 1786. Compeared Walter Scott, and presented 
an indenture, dated 31st March last, entered into between 
him and Walter Scott, his son, for five years from the 
date thereof, under a mutual penalty of £40 sterling." 

An inauspicious step this might at first sight appear in 
the early history of one so strongly predisposed for pur- 
suits wide as the antipodes asunder from the dry techni- 
calities of conveyancing; but he himself, I believe, was 
never heard, in his mature age, to express any regret that 
it should have been taken; and I am convinced for my 
part that it was a fortunate one. It prevented him, 
indeed, from passing with the usual regularity through a 
long course of Scotch metaphysics ; but I extremely doubt 
whether any discipline could ever have led him to derive 
either pleasure or profit from studies of that order. His 
apprenticeship left him time enough, as we shall find, for 
continuing his application to the stores of poetry and 
romance, and those old chroniclers, who to the end were 
his darling historians. Indeed, if he had wanted any 
new stimulus, the necessity of devoting certain hours of 
every day to a routine of drudgery, however it might 
have operated on a spirit more prone to earth, must have 


tended to quicken his appetite for "the sweet bread eaten 
in secret." But the duties which he had now to fulfil 
were, in various ways, directly and positively beneficial 
to the development both of his genius and his character. 
It was in the discharge of his functions as a Writer's 
Apprentice that he first penetrated into the Highlands, 
and formed those friendships among the surviving heroes 
of 1746, which laid the foundation for one great class of 
his works. Even the less attractive parts of his new 
vocation were calculated to give him a more complete 
insight into the smaller workings of poor human nature 
than can ever perhaps be gathered from the experience 
of the legal profession in its higher walk ; — the etiquette 
of the bar in Scotland, as in England, being averse to 
personal intercourse between the advocate and his client. 
But finally, and I will say chiefly, it was to this prosaic 
discipline that he owed those habits of steady, sober dili- 
gence, which few imaginative authors had ever before 
exemplified — and which, unless thus beaten into his 
composition at a ductile stage, even he, in all probability, 
could never have carried into the almost professional 
exercise of some of the highest and most delicate facul- 
ties of the human mind. He speaks, in not the least 
remarkable passage of the preceding Memoir, as if con- 
stitutional indolence had been his portion in common with 
aU the members of his father's family. When GifEord, 
in a dispute with Jacob Bryant, quoted Doctor Johnson's 
own confession that he knew little Greek, Bryant an- 
swered, "Yes, young man; but how shall we know what 
Johnson would have called much Greek? " and GifEord 
has recorded the deep impression which this hint left on 
his own mind. What Scott would have called constitu- 
tional diligence, I know not; but surely, if indolence of 
any kind had been inherent in his nature, even the tri- 
limph of Socrates was not more signal than his. ^ 

It will be^ by some of my friends, considered as trivial 
to remark on such a circumstance — but the reader who 

ii8 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 15 

is unacquainted with the professional habits of the Scotch 
lawyers may as well be told that the Writer's Appren- 
tice receives a certain allowance in money for every page 
he transcribes; and that, as in those days the greater 
part of the business, even of the supreme courts, was 
carried on by means of written papers, a ready penman, 
in a well-employed chamber, could earn in this way 
enough, at all events, to make a handsome addition to 
the pocket-money which was likely to be thought suitable 
for a youth of fifteen by such a man as the elder Scott. 
The allowance being, I believe, threepence for every page 
containing a certain fixed number of words, when Walter 
had finished, as he tells us he occasionally did, 120 pages 
within twenty-four hours, his fee would amount to thirty 
shillings; and in his early letters I find him more than 
once congratulating himself on having been, by some such 
exertion, enabled to purchase a book, or a coin, otherwise 
beyond his reach. A schoolfellow, who was now, like 
himself, a Writer's Apprentice, recollects the eagerness 
with which he thus made himself master of Evans's Bal- 
lads, shortly after their publication; and another of them, 
already often referred to, remembers, in particular, his 
rapture with Mickle's Cumnor Hall, which first appeared 
in that collection. "After the labors of the day were 
over," says Mr. Irving, "we often walked in the Mea- 
dows " — (a large field intersected by formal alleys of old 
trees, adjoining George's Square) — "especially in the 
moonlight nights ; and he seemed never weary of repeat- 
ing the first stanza — 

' The dews of snmmer night did fall — 
The Moon, sweet regent of the sky, 
Silvered the walls of CumnoT Hall, 

And many an oak that grew thereby.' " 

I have thought it worth while to preserve these remi- 
niscences of his companions at the time, though he has 
himself stated the circumstance in his Preface to Kenil- 
worth. "There is a period in youth," he there says, 


"when the mere power of numbers has a more strong 
effect on ear and imagination than in after-life. At this 
season of immature taste, the author was greatly delighted 
with the poems of Mickle and Langhorne. The first 
stanza of Cumnor Hall especially had a peculiar enchant- 
ment for his youthful ear — the force of which is not yet 
(1829) entirely spent." Thus that favorite elegy, after 
having dwelt on his memory and imagination for forty 
years, suggested the subject of one of his noblest ro- 

It is affirmed by a preceding biographer, on the au- 
thority of one of these brother-apprentices, that about 
this period Scott showed him a MS. poem on the Con- 
quest of Granada, in four books, each amotmting to 
about 400 lines, which, soon after it was finished, he 
committed to the flames.' As he states in his Essay 
on the Imitation of Popular Poetry, that, for ten years 
previous to 1796, when his first translation from the Ger- 
man was executed, he had written no verses "except an 
occasional sonnet to his mistress's eyebrow," I presume 
this Conquest of Granada, the fruit of his study of the 
Guerras Civiles, must be assigned to the summer of 
1786 — or, making allowance for trivial inaccuracy, to 
the next year at latest. It was probably composed in 
imitation of Mickle's Lusiad: — at all events, we have 
a very distinct statement, that he made no attempts in 
the manner of the old minstrels, early as his admiration 
for them had been, until the period of his acquaintance 
with Burger. Thus with him, as with most others, 
genius had hazarded many a random effort ere it discov- 
ered the true keynote. Long had 

" Amid the strings his fingers stray'd, 
And an uncertain warbling made," 

before "the measure wild" was caught, and 

" In varying cadence, soft or strong, 
He swept the sounding chords along.'' 

1 Life of Scott, by Mr. Allan, p. 53. 


His youthful admiration of Langhorne has been ren- 
dered memorable by his own record of his first and only 
interview with his great predecessor, Robert Burns. 
Although the letter in which he narrates this incident, 
addressed to myself in 1827, when I was writing a short 
biography of that poet, has been often reprinted, it is too 
important for my present purpose to be omitted here. 

"As for Burns," he writes, "I may truly say, Virgi- 
lium vidi tantum. I was a lad of fifteen in 1786-87, 
when he came first to Edinburgh, but had sense and feel- 
ing enough to be much interested in his poetry, and 
would have given the world to know him; but I had very 
little acquaintance with any literary people, and stiU less 
with the gentry of the west country, the two sets that he 
most frequented. Mr. Thomas Grierson was at that 
time a clerk of my father's. He knew Burns, and pro- 
mised to ask him to his lodgings to dinner, but had no 
opportunity to keep his word, otherwise I might have 
seen more of this distinguished man. As it was, I saw 
him one day at the late venerable Professor Ferguson's, 
where there were several gentlemen of literary reputation, 
among whom I remember the celebrated Mr. Dugald 
Stewart. Of course we youngsters sat silent, looked, 
and listened. The only thing I remember which was 
remarkable in Burns's manner was the effect produced 
upon him by a print of Bunbury's, representing a soldier 
lying dead on the snow, his dog sitting in misery on the 
one side, on the other his widow, with a child in her 
arms. These lines were written beneath, — 

' Gold on Canadian hills, or Minden's plain, 
Perhaps that parent wept her soldier slain ; 
Bent o'er her babe, her eye dissolved in dew, 
The big drops, mingling with the milk he drew, 
Gaye the sad presage of his futnre years. 
The child of misery baptized in tears.' 

Burns seemed much affected by the print, or rather the 
ideas which it suggested to his mind. He actually shed 
tears. He asked whose the lines were, and it chanced 

1786 ROBERT BURNS 121 

that nobody but myself remembered that they occur in 
a half-forgotten poem of Langhorne's, called by the un- 
promising title of The Justice of the Peace. I whispered 
my information to a friend present, who mentioned it to 
Burns, who rewarded me with a look and a word, which, 
though of mere civility, I then received, and still recol- 
lect, with very great pleasure. 

"His person was strong and robust: his manners rus- 
tic, not clownish; a sort of dignified plainness and sim- 
plicity, which received part of its effect perhaps from 
one's knowledge of his extraordinary talents. His fea- 
tures are represented in Mr. Nasmyth's picture, but to 
me it conveys the idea that they are diminished as if seen 
in perspective. I think his countenance was more mas- 
sive than it looks in any of the portraits. I would have 
taken the poet, had I not known what he wa^, for a very 
sagacious country farmer of the old Scotch school — i. e., 
none of your modern agriculturists, who keep laborers 
for their drudgery, but the douce gudeman who held his 
own plough. There was a strong expression of sense and 
shrewdness in all his lineaments; the eye alone, I think, 
indicated the poetical character and temperament. It 
was large, and of a dark cast, and glowed (I say literally 
glowed) when he spoke with feeling or interest. I never 
saw such another eye in a human head, though I have 
seen the most distinguished men in my time. His con- 
versation expressed perfect self-confidence, without the 
slightest presumption. Among the men who were the 
most learned of their time and country he expressed him- 
self with perfect firmness, but without the least intrusive 
forwardness ; and when he differed in opinion, he did not 
hesitate to express it firmly, yet at the same time with 
modesty. I do not remember any part of his conversa- 
tion distinctly enough to be quoted, nor did I ever see 
him again, except in the street, where he did not recog- 
nize me, as I could not expect he should. He was much 
caressed in Edinburgh, but (considering what literary 

122 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 15 

emoluments have been since his day) the efforts made for 
his relief were extremely trifling. 

"I remember on this occasion I mention, I thought 
Burns's acquaintance with English poetry was rather 
limited, and also, that having twenty times the abilities 
of AUan Kamsay and of FerguSson, he talked of them 
with too much humility as his models; there was doubt- 
less national predilection in his estimate." 

I need not remark on the extent of knowledge and 
justness of taste exemplified in this early measurement of 
Burns, both as a student of English literature and as a 
Scottish poet. The print, over which Scott saw Burns 
shed tears, is still in the possession of Dr, Ferguson's 
family, and I had often heard him tell the story, in the 
room where the precious relic hangs, before I requested 
him to down in writing — how little anticipating 
the use to which I should ultimately apply it ! ^ 

His intimacy with Adam (now Sir Adam) Ferguson 
was thus his first means of introduction to the higher 
literary society of Edinburgh; and it was very probably 
to that connection that he owed, among the rest, his ac- 
quaintance with the blind poet Blacklock, whom John- 
son, twelve years earlier, "beheld with reverence." We 
have seen, however, that the venerable author of Douglas 
was a friend of his own parents, and had noticed him 
even in his infancy at Bath. John Home now inhabited 
a villa at no great distance from Edinburgh, and there, 
all through his young days, Scott was a frequent guest. 
Nor must it be forgotten that his uncle, Dr. Eutherford, 
inherited much of the general accomplishments, as well 
as the professional reputation of -his father — and that it 
was beneath that roof he saw, several years before this. 
Dr. Cartwright, then in the enjoyment of some fame as 
a poet. In this family, indeed, he had more than one 

^ [" Long life to thy fame and peace to thy aonl, Rob Bums I When I 
want to express a sentiment which I feel strongly, I find the phrase in 
Shakespeare — or thee." — Journal, December 11, 1826.] 


kind and strenuous encourager of his early literary tastes, 
as will be shown abundantly when we reach certain relics 
of his correspondence with his mother's sister. Dr. 
Rutherford's good-natured remonstrances with him, as 
a boy, for reading at breakfast, are well remembered, 
and will remind my reader of a similar trait in the juve- 
nile manners both of Burns and Byron; nor was this 
habit entirely laid aside even in Scott's advanced age. 

If he is quite accurate in referring his first acquaint- 
ance with the Highlands to his fifteenth year, this inci- 
dent also belongs to the first season of his apprentice- 
ship. His father had, among a rather nimierous list of 
Highland clients, Alexander Stewart of Invernahyle, 
an enthusiastic Jacobite, who had survived to recount, 
in secure and vigorous old age, his active experiences in 
the insurrections both of 1715 and 1745. He had, it 
appears, attracted Walter's attention and admiration at 
a very early date; for he speaks of having "seen him in 
arms" and heard him "exult in the prospect of drawing 
his claymore once more before he died," when Paul Jones 
threatened a descent on Edinburgh; which transaction 
occurred in September, 1779. Invernahyle, as Scott 
adds, was the only person who seemed to have retained 
possession of his cool senses at the period of that dis- 
graceful alarm, and offered the magistrates to collect as 
many Highlanders as would sufiice for cutting off any 
part of the pirate's crew that might venture, in quest of 
plunder, into a city full of high houses and narrow lanes, 
and every way well calculated for defence. The eager 
delight with which the young apprentice now listened to 
the tales of this fine old man's early days produced an 
invitation to his residence among the mountains; and 
to this excursion he probably devoted the few weeks of an 
autumnal vacation — whether in 1786 or 1787 it is of no 
great consequence to ascertain. 

In the Introduction to one of his Novels he has pre- 
served a vivid picture of his sensations when the vale of 

124 SIR WALTER SCOTt ^t. 15 

Perth first burst on his view, in the course of his progress 
to Invernahyle, and the description has made classical 
ground of the Wicks of Baiglie, the spot from which 
that beautiful landscape was surveyed. " Childish won- 
der, indeed," he says, "was an ingredient in my delight, 
for I was not above fifteen years old, and as this had 
been the first excursion which I was permitted to make 
on a pony of my own, I also experienced the glow of in- 
dependence, mingled with that degree of anxiety which 
the most conceited boy feels when he is first abandoned 
to his own undirected counsels. I recollect pulling up 
the reins without meaning to do so, and gazing on the 
scene before me as if I had been afraid it would shift, 
like those in a theatre, before I could distinctly observe 
its different parts, or convince myself that what I saw 
was real. Since that hour the recollection of that inimi- 
table landscape has possessed the strongest influence over 
my mind, and retained its place as a memorable thing, 
while much that was influential on my own fortunes has 
fled from my recollection." So speaks the poet; and 
who will not recognize his habitual modesty in thus 
undervaluing, as uninfluential in comparison with some 
affair of worldly business, the ineffaceable impression 
thus stamped on the glowing imagination of his boyhood ? 
I need not quote the numerous passages scattered over 
his writings, both early and late, in which he dwells with 
fond affection on the chivalrous chiaracter of Invernahyle 
— the delight with which he heard the veteran describe 
his broadsword duel with Rob Eoy — his campaigns with 
Mar and Charles Edward — and his long seclusion (as 
pictured in the story of Bradwardine) within a rocky cave 
situated not far from his own house, while it was garri- 
soned by a party of English soldiers, after the battle of 
CuUoden. Here, too, still survived the trusty henchman 
who had attended the chieftain in many a bloody field 
and perilous escape, the same "grim-looking old High- 
lander" who was in the act of cutting down Colonel 


Whitefbord with his Lochaber axe at Prestonpans when 
his master arrested the blow — an incident to which In- 
vernahyle owed his life, and we are indebted for another 
of the most striking pages in Waverley. 

I have often heard Scott mention some curious par- 
ticulars of his first visit to the remote fastness of one of 
these Highland friends; but whether he told the story of 
Invernahyle, or of one of his own relations of the Clan 
Campbell, I do not recollect; I rather think the latter 
was the case. Qn reaching the brow of a bleak eminence 
overhanging the primitive tower and its tiny patch of 
cultivated ground, he found his host and three sons, and 
perhaps half-a-dozen attendant gillies, all stretched haK 
asleep in their tartans upon the heath, with guns and 
dogs, and a profusion of game about them; while in the 
courtyard, far below, appeared a company of women ac- 
tively engaged in loading a cart with manure. The 
stranger was not a little astonished when he discovered, 
on descending from the height, that among these indus- 
trious females were the laird's own lady, and two or three 
of her daughters; but they seemed quite unconscious of 
having been detected in an occupation unsuitable to their 
rank — retired presently to their "bowers," and when 
they reappeared in other dresses, retained no traces of 
their morning's work, except complexions glowing with 
a radiant freshness, for one evening of which many a 
high-bred beauty would have bartered half her diamonds. 
He found the young ladies not ill informed, and exceed- 
ingly agreeable; and the song and the dance seemed to form 
the invariable termination of their busy days. I must 
not forget his admiration at the principal article of this 
laird's first course; namely, a gigantic haggis, borne 
into the hall in a wicker basket by two half -naked Celts, 
while the piper strutted fiercely behind them, blowing 
a tempest of dissonance. 

These Highland visits were repeated almost every 
summer for several successive years, and perhaps even 

126 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. i6 

the first of them was in some degree connected with his 
professional business. At all events, it was to his allot- 
ted task of enforcing the execution of a legal instrument 
against some Maclarens, refractory tenants of Stewart 
of Appin, brother-in-law to Invemahyle, that Scott owed 
his introduction to the scenery of The Lady of the Lake. 
"An escort of a sergeant and six men," he says, "was 
obtained from a Highland regiment lying in Stirling, 
and the author, then a Writer's Apprentice, equivalent to 
the honorable situation of an attorney's clerk, was in- 
vested with the superintendence of the expedition, with 
directions to see that the messenger discharged his duty 
fully, and that the gallant sergeant did not exceed his 
part by committing violence or plunder. And thus it 
happened, oddly enough, that the author first entered 
the romantic scenery of Loch Katrine, of which he may 
perhaps say he has somewhat extended the reputation, 
riding in all the dignity of danger, with a front and rear 
guard, and loaded arms. The sergeant was absolutely a 
Highland Sergeant Kite, full of stories of Bob Boy and 
of himself, and a very good companion. We experienced 
no interruption whatever, and when we came to Invementy , 
found the house deserted. We took up our quarters for 
the night, and used some of the victuals which we found 
there. The Maclarens, who probably had never thought 
of any serious opposition, went to America, where, hav- 
ing had some slight share in removing them from their 
paupera regna, I sincerely hope they prospered." ^ 

That he entered with ready zeal into such professional 
business as inferred Highland expeditions with comrades 
who had known Bob Boy, no one will think strange; but 
more than one of his biographers allege that in the ordi- 
nary indoor fagging of the chamber in George's Square, 
he was always an imwilling, and rarely an efficient assist- 
ant. Their addition, that he often played chess with 
one of his companions in the office, and had to conceal 

^ Introdnction to Sob Boy. 


the board with precipitation when the old gentleman's 
footsteps were heard on the staircase, is, I do not doubt, 
true; and we may remember along with it his own in- 
sinuation that his father was sometimes poring in his 
secret nook over Spottiswoode or Wodrow, when his ap- 
prentices supposed him to be deep in Dirleton's Doubts, 
or Stair's decisions. But the Memoir of 1808, so can- 
did — indeed more than candid — as to many juvenile 
irregularities, contains no confession that supports the 
broad assertion to which I have alluded ; nor can I easily 
believe, that with his affection for his father, and that 
sense of duty which seems to have been inherent in his 
character, and, lastly, with the evidence of a most severe 
training in industry which the habits of his after-life 
presented, it is at all deserving of serious acceptation. 
His mere handwriting, indeed, continued, during the 
whole of his prime, to afford most striking and irresistible 
proof how completely he must have submitted himself for 
some very considerable period to the mechanical disci- 
pline of his father's o£Bce. It spoke to months after 
months of this humble toil, as distinctly as the illegible 
scrawl of Lord Byron did to his self -mastership from the 
hour that he left Harrow. There are some little techni- 
cal tricks, such as no gentleman who has not been sub- 
jected to a similar regimen ever can fall into, which he 
practised invariably while composing his poetry, which 
appear not unfrequently on the MSS. of his best novels, 
and which now and then dropt instinctively from his pen, 
even in the private letters and diaries of his closing 
years. I allude particularly to a sort of flourish at the 
bottom of the page, originally, I presume, adopted in 
engrossing as a safeguard against the intrusion of a forged 
line between the legitimate text and the attesting signa- 
ture. He was quite sensible that this ornament might 
as well be dispensed with; and his family often heard 
him mutter, after involuntarily performing it, "There 
goes the old shop again ! " 

128 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. ij 

I dwell on this matter because it was always his favor- 
ite tenet, in contradiction to what he called the cant of 
sonneteers, that there is no necessary connection between 
genius and an aversion or contempt for any of the com- 
mon duties of life; he thought, on the contrary, that to 
spend some fair portion of every day in any matter of 
fact occupation is good for the higher faculties themselves 
in the upshot. In a word, from beginning to end, he 
piqued himself on being a man of business ; and did — 
with one sad and memorable exception — whatever the 
ordinary course of things threw in his way, in exactly 
the businesslike fashion which might have been expected 
from the son of a thoroughbred old Clerk to the Signet, 
who had never deserted his father's profession. 

In the winter of 1788, however, his apprentice habits 
were exposed to a new danger; and from that date I 
believe them to have undergone a considerable change. 
He was then sent to attend the lectures of the Professor 
of Civil Law in the University, this course forming part 
of the usual professional education of Writers to the Sig- 
net, as well as of Advocates. For some time his com- 
panions, when in Edinburgh, had been chiefly, almost 
solely, his brother-apprentices and the clerks in his 
father's office. He had latterly seen comparatively little 
even of the better of his old High School friends, such 
as Ferguson and Irving — for though both of these also 
were writer's apprentices, they had been indentured to 
other masters, and each had naturally formed new inti- 
macies within his own chamber. The Civil Law class 
brought him again into daily contact with both Irving 
and Ferguson, as well as others of his earlier acquaint- 
ance of the higher ranks; but it also led him into the 
society of some young gentlemen previously unknown to 
him, who had from the outset been destined for the Bar, 
and whose conversation, tinctured with certain prejudices 
natural to scions of what he calls in Eedgauntlet the 
Scottish noblesse de la robe, soon banished from his mind 


every thought of ultimately adhering to the secondary 
branch of the law. He found these future barristers 
cultivating general literature, without the least appre- 
hension that such elegant pursuits could be regarded by 
any one as interfering with the proper studies of their 
professional career; justly believing, on the contrary, 
that for the higher class of forensic exertion some ac- 
quaintance with almost every branch of science and let- 
ters is a necessary preparative. He contrasted their 
liberal aspirations, and the encouragement which these 
received in their domestic circles, with the narrower 
views which predominated in his own home ; and resolved 
to gratify his ambition by adopting a most precarious 
walk in life, instead of adhering to that in which he 
might have counted with perfect security on the early 
attainment of pecuniary independence. This resolution 
appears to have been foreseen by his father, long before 
it was announced in terms; and the handsome manner 
in which the old gentleman conducted himself upon the 
occasion is remembered with dutiful gratitude in the 
preceding Autobiography. 

• The most important of these new alliances was the in- 
timate friendship which he now formed with Mr. John 
Irving's near relation, William Clerk of Eldin, of whose 
p&werful talents and extensive accomplishments we shall 
hereafter meet with many enthusiastic notices. It was 
in company with this gentleman that he entered the de- 
bating societies described in his Memoir; through him 
he soon became linked in the closest intimacy with George 
Cranstoun (now Lord Corehouse), George Abercromby 
(now Lord Abercromby), John James Edmonstone^ of 
Newton (whose mother was sister of Sir Balph Aber- 
cromby), Patrick Murray of Simprim, Sir Patrick Mur- 
ray of Ochtertyre, and a group of other young men, all 
high in birth and connection, and all remarkable in early 
life for the qualities which afterwards led them to emi- 
> Mr. Edmonstone died 19th April, 1840. — (1848.) 


nent station, or adorned it. The introduction to their 
several families is alluded to by Scott as having opened 
to him abundantly certain advantages, which no one could 
have been more qualified to improve, but from which he 
had hitherto been in great measure debarred in conse- 
quence of the retired habits of his parents. 

Mr. Clerk says that he had been struck from the first 
day he entered the Civil Law class-room with something 
odd and remarkable in Scott's appearance; what this 
something was he cannot now recall, but he remembers 
telling his companion some time afterwards that he 
thought he looked like a hautboy player. Scott was 
amused with this notion, as he had never touched a musi- 
cal instrument of any kind ; but I fancy his friend had 
been watching a certain noticeable but altogether inde- 
scribable play of the upper lip when in an abstracted 
mood. He rallied Walter, he says, during one of their 
first evening walks together, on the slovenliness of his 
dress : he wore a pair of corduroy breeches, much glazed 
by the rubbing of his staff, which he immediately flour- 
ished — and said, "They be good enough for drinking in 
— let us go and have some oysters in the Covenant 

Convivial habits were then indulged among the young 
men of Edinburgh, whether students of law, solicitors, 
or barristers, to an extent now happily unknown; and 
this anecdote recalls some striking hints on that sub- 
ject which occur in Scott's brief Autobiography. That 
he partook profusely in the juvenile bacchanalia of that 
day, and continued to take a plentiful share in such jol- 
lities down to the time of his marriage, are facts worthy 
of being distinctly stated ; for no man in mature life was 
more habitually averse to every sort of intemperance. 
He could, when I first knew him, swallow a great quan- 
tity of wine without being at all visibly disordered by it ; 
but nothing short of some very particular occasion could 
ever induce him to put this strength of head to a trial; 


and I have heard him many times utter words which no 
one in the days of his youthful temptation can be the 
worse for remembering: — "Depend upon it, of all vices, 
drinking is the most incompatible with greatness." 

The liveliness of his conversation — the strange variety 
of his knowledge — and above all, perhaps, the porten- 
tous tenacity of his memory — riveted more and more 
Clerk's attention, and commanded the wonder of all his 
new allies ; but of these extraordinary gifts Scott himself 
appeared to be little conscious; or at least he impressed 
them all as attaching infinitely greater consequence — 
(exactly as had been the case with him in the days of the 
Cowgate Port and the kittle nine steps) — to feats of 
personal agility and prowess. William Clerk's brother, 
James, a midshipman in the navy, happened to come 
home from a cruise in the Mediterranean shortly after 
this acquaintance began, and Scott and the sailor became 
almost at sight "sworn brothers." In order to complete 
his time under the late Sir Alexander Cochrane, who 
was then on the Leith station, James Clerk obtained the 
command of a lugger, and the young friends often made 
little excursions to sea with him. "The first time Scott 
dined on board," says William Clerk, "we met before 
embarking at a tavern in Leith — it was a large party, 
mostly midshipmen, and strangers to him, and our host 
introducing his landsmen guests said, ' My brother you 
know, gentlemen; as for Mr. Scott, mayhap you may 
take him for a poor lamiter, but he is the firslt to begin 
a row, and the last to end it ; ' which eulogium he con- 
firmed with some of the expletives of Tom Pipes." ^ 
When, many years afterwards, Clerk read The Pirate, 
he was startled by the resurrection of a hundred traits of 
the table-talk of this lugger; but the author has since 

1 "Dinna steer him," says Hobbie Elliot; "ye may think Elshie's 
but a lamiter, bnt I warrant ye, grippie for g^rippie, he 'II gar the bine 
blood spin frae your nails — his hand's like a smith's ■vice." — Black 
Dwarf, chap. xvii. 

132 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 17 

traced some of the most striking passages in that novel 
to his recollection of the almost childish period when he 
hung on his own brother Kobert's stories about Rodney's 
battles and the haunted keys of the West Indies. 

One morning Scott called on Clerk, and, exhibiting 
his stick all cut and marked, told him he had been at- 
tacked in the streets the night before by three fellows, 
against whom he had defended himself for an hour. 
"By Shrewsbury clock?" said his friend. "No," said 
Scott, smiling, "by the Tron." But thenceforth, adds 
Mr. Clerk, and for twenty years after, he called his 
walking stick by the name of "Shrewsbury." 

"With these comrades Scott now resumed, and pushed 
to a much greater extent, his early habits of wandering 
over the country in quest of castles and other remains of 
antiquity, his passion for which derived a new impulse 
from the conversation of the celebrated John Clerk of 
Eldin,^ the father of his friend. WiUiam Clerk well re- 
members his father telling a story which was introduced 
in due time in The Antiquary. While he was visiting 
his grandfather, Sir John Clerk, at Dumcrieff, in Dum- 
fries-shire, many years before this time, the old Baronet 
carried some English virtuosos to see a supposed Eoman 
camp; and on his exclaiming at a particular spot, "This 
I take to have been the Prsetorium," a herdsman who 
stood by answered, "Prsetorium here Prsetorium there, 
I made it wi' a flaughter spade." ^ Many traits of the 
elder Clerk were, his son has no doubt, embroidered on 
the character of George Constable in the composition of 
Jonathan Oldbuck. The old gentleman's enthusiasm 
for antiquities was often played on by these young 
friends, but more effectually by his eldest son, John 
Clerk (Lord Eldin), who, having a great genius for art, 
used to amuse himself with manufacturing mutilated 
'heads, which, after being buried for a convenient time in 

^ AnthoT of the famous Essay on dividing the Line in Sea-fights. 
^ Compare The Antiquary, chap. iv. 


the ground, were accidentally discovered in some fortu- 
nate hour, and received by the laird with great honor as 
valuable accessions to his museum.^ 

On a fishing excursion to a loch near Howgate, among 
the Moorfoot Hills, Scott, Clerk, Irving, and Aber- 
cromby spent the night at a little public-house kept by 
one Mrs. Margaret Dods. When St. Eonan's Well was 
published. Clerk, meeting Scott in the street, observed, 
"That's an odd name; surely I have met with it some- 
where before." Scott smiled, said, "Don't you remem- 
ber Howgate ? " and passed on. The name alone, how- 
ever, was taken from the Howgate hostess. 

At one of their drinking bouts of those days William 
Clerk, Sir P. Murray, Edmonstone, and Abercromby, 
being of the party, the sitting was prolonged to a very 
late hour, and Scott fell asleep. When he awoke, his 
friends succeeded in convincing him that he had sung a 
song in the course of the evening, and sung it extremely 
well. How must these gentlemen have chuckled when 
they read Frank Osbaldistone's account of his revels in 
the old hall! "It has even been reported by maligners 
that I sung a song while under this vinous influence ; but 
as I remember nothing of it, and never attempted to 
turn a tune in all my life, either before or since, I would 
willingly hope there is no actual foundation for the cal- 

On one of his first long walks with Clerk and others 
of the same set, their pace, being about four miles an 
hour, was found rather too much for Scott, and he offered 
to contract for three, which measure was thenceforth 
considered as the legal one. At this rate they often con- 
tinued to wander from five in the morning till eight in 

1 The most remarkable of these antique heads was so highly appreci- 
ated by another distinguished connoissenr, the late Earl of Bachan, that 
he carried it o£E from Mr. Clerk's museum, and presented it to the Scot- 
tish Society of Antiquaries — in whose collection, no doubt, it may still be 

^ Bob Boy, chap. xii. 

134 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 17 

the evening, halting for such refreshment at mid-day as 
any village alehouse might afford. On many occasions, 
however, they had stretched so far into the country, that 
they were obliged to be absent from home all night; and 
though great was the alarm which the first occurrence of 
this sort created in George's Square, the family soon got 
accustomed to such things, and little notice was taken, 
even though Walter remained away for the better part 
of a week. I have heard him laugh heartily over the 
recollections of one protracted excursion, towards the 
close of which the party found themselves a long day's 
walk — thirty miles, I think — from Edinburgh, without 
a single sixpence left among them. "We were put to 
our shifts," said he; "but we asked every now and then 
at a cottage door for a drink of water; and one or two 
of the good-wives, observing our worn-out looks, brought 
forth milk in place of water — so with that, and hips and 
haws, we came in little the worse." His father met him 
with some impatient questions as to what he had been 
living on so long, for the old man well knew how scantily 
his pocket was supplied. "Pretty much like the young 
ravens," answered he ; "I only wished I had been as good 
a player on the flute as poor George Primrose in The 
Vicar of Wakefield. If I had his art I should like no- 
thing better than to tramp like him from cottage to cot- 
tage over the world." — "I doubt," said the grave Clerk 
to the Signet, "I greatly doubt, sir, you were born for 
nae better than a gangrel scrape gut." Some allusions 
to reproaches of this kind occur in the Memoir; and 
we shall find others in letters subsequent to his admission 
at the Bar.^ 

The debating club formed among these young friends 

1 After the cantious father had had further opportunity of obserring his 
son's proceedings, his wife happened one night to express some amdety on 
the protracted absence of Walter and his brother Thomas. "My dear 
Annie," said the old man, " Tom is with Walter this time ; and have you 
not yet perceived that wherever Walter goes, he is pretty sure to find his 
bread buttered on both sides ? " — From. Mrs. Thomas Scott. — (1839.) 


at this era of their studies was called The. Literary 
Society ; and is not to be confounded with the more cele- 
brated Speculative Society, which Scott did not join for 
two years later. At The Lit&rary he spoke frequently, 
and very amusingly and sensibly, but was not at all 
numbered among the most brilliant members. He had 
a world of knowledge to produce; but he had not ac- 
quired the art of arranging it to the best advantage in 
a continued address; nor, indeed, did he ever, I think, 
except under the influence of strong personal feeling, 
even when years and fame had given him full confidence 
in himself, exhibit upon any occasion the powers of oral 
eloquence. His antiquarian information, however, sup- 
plied many an interesting feature in these evenings of 
discussion. He had already dabbled in Anglo-Saxon 
and the Norse Sagas: in his Essay on Imitations of 
Popular Poetry, he alludes to these studies as having 
facilitated his acquisition of German : — But he was deep 
especially in Fordun and Wyntoun, and all the Scotch 
chronicles; and his friends rewarded him by the honor- 
able title of Duns Scotus. 

A smaller society, formed with less ambitious views, 
originated in a ride to Pennycuik, the seat of the head 
of Mr. Clerk's family, whose elegant hospitalities are 
recorded in the Memoir. This was called, by way of 
excellence. The Club, and I believe it is continued under 
the same name to this day. Here, too, Walter had his 
sobriquet; and — his corduroy breeches, J presume, not 
being as yet worn out — it was Colonel Grogg.^ 

1 " The members of The Club used to meet on Friday evenings in a room 
in Carrubber's Close, from which some of them usually adjourned to sup at 
an oyster tavern in the same neighborhood. In after-life, those of them 
who chanced to be in Edinburgh dined together twice every year, at the 
close of the winter and summer sessions of the Law Courts ; and during 
thirty years, Sir Walter was very rarely absent on these occasions. It 
was also a rule, that when any member received an appointment or pro- 
motion, he should give a dinner to his old associates ; and they had accord- 
ingly two such dinners from him — one when he became Sheriff of Sel- 
kirkshire, and another when he was named Clerk of Session. The original 

136 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 17 

Meantime he had not broken up his connection with 
Bosebank; he appears to have spent several weeks in the 
autumn, both of 1788 and 1789, under his uncle's roof; 
and it was, I think, of his journey thither, in the last 
named year, that he used to tell an anecdote, which I 
shall here set down — how shorn, alas, of all the acces- 
sories that gave it life when he recited it. Calling, be- 
fore he set out, on one of the ancient spinsters of his 
family, to inquire if she had any message for Kelso, she 
retired, and presently placed in his hands a packet of 
some bulk and weight, which required, she said, very 
particular attention. He took it without examining the 
address, and carried it in his pocket next day, not at all 
to the lightening of a forty miles' ride in August. On 
his arrival, it turned out to contain one of the old lady's 
pattens, sealed up for a particular cobbler in Kelso, and 
accompanied with fourpence to pay for mending it, and 
special directions that it might be brought back to her 
by the same economical conveyance. 

It wiU be seen from the following letter, the earliest 
of Scott's writing that has fallen into my hands, that 
professional business had some share in this excursion 
to Kelso; but I consider with more interest the brief 
allusion to a day at Sandy-Knowe : — 

members were, in number, nineteen — viz., jStV Walter Scott, Mr. William 
Clerk, Sir A. Ferguson, Mr. James Edmonstone, Mr. George Abercromby 
(Lord Abercromby), Mr. D. Boyle (now Lord Justice-Clerk), Mr. James 
Glassford (Advocate), Mr. James Ferguson (Clerk of Session), Mr. David 
Monypenny (Lord Pitmilly), Mr. Bobert Davidson (Professor of Law at 
Glasgow), Sir William Eae, Bart., Sir Patrick Murray, Bart., David Dou- 
glas (Lord Eeston), Mr. Murray of Simprim, Mr. Monteith of Closebum, 
Mr. Archibald Miller (son of Professor Miller), Baron Beden, a Hanove- 
rian ; the Honorable Thomas Douglas, afterwards Earl of Selkirk, — and 
John Irving. Except the five whose names are underlined, these original 
members are all still alive." — Letter from Mr. Irving, dated 29th Septem- 
ber, 1836. 

1788 ROSEBANK 137 

(With a pared.) 

BoBEEAXE, 5th September, 1788. 

Deab Mothek, — I was favored with your letter, and 
send you Anne's stockings along with this: I would have 
sent them last week, but had some expectations of a pri- 
vate opportunity. I have been very happy for this fort- 
night; we have some plan or other for every day. Last 
week my uncle, my cousin William,^ and I, rode to 
Smailholm, and from thence walked to Sandy-Knowe 
Craigs, where we spent the whole day, and made a very 
hearty dinner by the side of the Orderlaw Well, on some 
cold beef and bread and cheese: we had also a small 
case-bottle of rum to make grog with, which we drank to 
the Sandy-Knowe bairns, and all their connections. 
This jaunt gave me much pleasure, and had I time, I 
would give you a more full account of it. 

The fishing has been hitherto but indifferent, and I 
fear I shall not be able to accomplish my promise with 
regard to the wild ducks. I was out on Friday, and only 
saw three. I may probably, however, send you a hare, 
as my uncle has got a present of two greyhounds from 
Sir H. MacDougall, and as he has a license, only waits 
till the com is off the ground to commence coursing. Be 
it known to you, however, I am not altogether employed 
in amusements, for I have got two or three clients besides 
my uncle, and am busy drawing tacks and contracts, — 
not, however, of marriage. I am in a fair way of mak- 
ing money, if I stay here long. 

Here I have written a pretty long letter, and nothing 
in it; but you know writing to one's friends is the next 
thing to seeing them. My love to my father and the 
boys, from. Dear Mother, your dutiful and affectionate 
son, Walter Scott. 

^ The present Laird of Eaebum, 

138 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. i8 

It appears from James Ballantyiie's memoranda, that 
having been very early bound apprentice to a solicitor in 
Kelso, he had no intercourse with Scott during the three 
or four years that followed their companionship at the 
school of Lancelot Whale; but Ballantyne was now sent 
to spend a winter in Edinburgh, for the completion of 
his professional education, and in the course of his attend- 
ance on the Scots Law class, became a member of a 
young Teviotdale club, where Walter Scott seldom failed 
to make his appearance. They supped together, it seems, 
once a month; and here, as in the associations above 
mentioned, good fellowship was often pushed beyond the 
limits of modern indulgence. The strict intimacy be- 
tween Scott and Ballantyne was not at this time renewed, 
— their avocations prevented it, — but the latter was no 
uninterested observer of his old comrade's bearing on 
this new scene. "Upon all these occasions," he says, 
"one of the principal features of his character was dis- 
played as conspicuously as I believe it ever was at any 
later period. This was the remarkable ascendency he 
never failed to exhibit among his young companions, and 
which' appeared to arise from their involuntary and un- 
conscious submission to the same firmness of understand- 
ing, and gentle exercise of it, which produced the same 
effects throughout his after-lifel Where there was al- 
ways a good deal of drinking, there was of course now 
and then a good deal of quarrelling. But three words 
from Walter Scott never failed to put all such propensi- 
ties to quietness." 

Mr. Ballantyne's account of his friend's peace-making 
exertions at this club may seem a little at variance with 
some preceding details. There is a difference, however, 
between encouraging quarrels in the bosom of a convivial 
party, and taking a fair part in a row between one's own 
party and another. But Ballantyne adds, that at The 
Teviotdale, Scott was always remarkable for being the 
most temperate of the set; and if the club consisted 

1789 DUNS SCOTUS 139 

chiefly of persons, like Ballantyne himself, somewhat in- 
ferior to Scott in birth and station, his carefulness both 
of sobriety and decorum at their meetings was but an- 
other feature of his unchanged and unchangeable charac- 
ter — qualis ah incepto. 

At one of the many merry suppers of this time Walter 
Scott had said something, of which, on recollecting him- 
self next morning, he was sensible that his friend Clerk 
might have reason to complain. He sent him accord- 
ingly a note apologetical, which has by some accident 
been preserved, and which I am sure every reader will 
agree with me in considering well worthy of preservation. 
In it Scott contrives to make use of both his own club 
designations, and addresses his friend by another of the 
same order, which Clerk had received in consequence of 
comparing himself on some forgotten occasion to Sir 
John Brute in the play. This characteristic document is 
as follows : — 


Dear Baeonet, — I am sorry to find that our friend 
Colonel Grogg has behaved with a very undue degree 
of vehemence in a dispute with you last night, occasioned 
by what I am convinced was a gross misconception of 
your expressions. As the Colonel, though a military 
man, is not too haughty to acknowledge an error, he has 
commissioned me to make his apology as a mutual friend, 
which I am convinced you will accept from yours ever. 

Duns Scotus. 

Given at Castle Duns, 

I should perhaps have mentioned sooner that when 
first Duns Scotus became the Baronefs daily companion, 
this new alliance was observed with considerable jeal- 
ousy by some of his former inseparables of the writing 
office. At the next annual supper of the clerks and ap- 
prentices, the gaudy of the chamber, this feeling showed 


itself in various ways, and when the cloth was drawn, 
Walter rose and asked what was meant. "Well," said 
one of the lads, "since you will have it out, you are cut- 
ting your old friends for the sake of Clerk and some 
more of these dons that look down on the like of us." 
"Gentlemen," answered Scott, "I will never cut any 
man unless I detect him in scoundrelism; but I know 
not what right any of you have to interfere with my 
choice of my company. If any one thought I had in- 
jured him, he would have done well to ask an explanation 
in a more private manner. As it is, I fairly own, that 
though I like many of you very much, and have long 
done so, I think William Clerk well worth you all put 
together." The senior in the chair was wise enough to 
laugh, and the evening passed off without further dis- 

As one effect of his office education, Scott soon began 
to preserve in regular files the letters addressed to him ; 
and from the style and tone of such letters, as Mr. 
Southey observes in his Life of Cowper, a man's charac- 
ter may often be gathered even more surely than from 
those written by himself. The first series of any consid- 
erable extent in his collection includes letters dated as 
far back as 1786, and proceeds, with not many interrup- 
tions, down beyond the period when his fame had been 
established. I regret, that from the delicate nature of the 
transactions chiefly dwelt upon in the earlier of these 
communications, I dare not make a free use of them ; but 
I feel it my duty to record the strong impression they 
have left on my own mind of high generosity of affection, 
coupled with calm judgment, and perseverance in well- 
doing, on the part of the stripling Scott. To these 
indeed every line in the collection bears pregnant testi- 
mony. A young gentleman, born of good family, and 
heir to a tolerable fortune, is sent to Edinburgh College, 
and is seen partaking, along with Scott, through several 
apparently happy and careless years, of the studies and 


amusements of which the reader may by this time have 
formed an adequate 'notion. By degrees, from the usual 
license of his equal comrades, he sinks into habits of a 
looser description — becomes reckless, contracts debts, 
irritates his own family almost beyond hope of reconcilia- 
tion, is virtually cast off by them, runs away from Scot- 
land, forms a marriage far below his condition in a remote 
part of the sister kingdom — and, when the poor girl has 
made him a father, then first begins to open his eyes to 
the full consequences of his mad career. He appeals to 
Scott, by this time in his eighteenth year, "as the truest 
and noblest of friends," who had given him "the earliest 
and the strongest warnings," had assisted him "the most 
generously throughout all his wanderings and distresses," 
and wiU not now abandon him in his "penitent lowliness 
of misery," the result of his seeing "virtue and innocence 
involved in the punishment of his errors." I find Scott 
obtaining the slow and reluctant assistance of his own 
careful father — who had long before observed this 
youth's wayward disposition, and often cautioned his son 
against the connection — to intercede with the unfortu- 
nate wanderer's family, and procure, if possible, some 
mitigation of their sentence. The result is that he is 
furnished with the scanty means of removing himself to 
a distant colony, where he spends several years in the 
drudgery of a very humble occupation, but by degrees 
establishes for himself a new character, which commands 
the anxious interest of strangers; — and I find these 
strangers, particularly a benevolent and venerable clergy- 
man, addressing, on his behalf, without his privacy, the 
young person, as yet unknown to the world, whom the 
object of their concern had painted to them as "uniting 
the warm feelings of youth with the sense of years " — 
whose hair he had, "from the day he left England, worn 
next his heart." Just at the time when this appeal 
reached Scott, he hears that his exiled friend's father has 
died suddenly, and, after all, intestate; he has actually 

142 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. i8 

been taking steps to ascertain tbe truth of the case at 
the moment when the American despatch is laid on his 
table. I leave the reader to guess with what pleasure 
Scott has to communicate the intelligence that his repent- 
ant and reformed friend may return to take possession of 
his inheritance. The letters before me contain touching 
pictures of their meeting — of Walter's first visit to the 
ancient hall, where a happy family are now assembled — 
and of the affectionately respectful sense which his friend 
retained ever afterwards of all that he had done for him 
in the season of his struggles. But what a grievous loss 
is Scott's part of this correspondence ! I find the com- 
rade over and over again expressing his admiration of 
the letters in which Scott described to him his early touts 
both in the Highlands and the Border dales : I find him 
prophesying from them, as early as 1789, "one day your 
pen will make you famous," — and already, in 1790, 
urging him to concentrate his ambition on a "history of 
the clans. "^ 

This young gentleman appears to have had a decided 
turn for literature ; and, though in his earlier epistles he 
makes no allusion to Scott as ever dabbling in rhyme, he 
often inserts verses of his own, some of which are not 
without merit. There is a long letter in doggerel, dated 
1788, descriptive of a ramble from Edinburgh to Carlisle 
— of which I may quote the opening lines, as a sample 
of the simple habits of these young people : — 

" At four in the morning, I won't be too sure, 
Yet, if right I rememher me, that was the honr, 
When -with Ferguson, Bamsaj, and Jones, sir, and yon, 
From Anld Beekie I soathward my route did pursue. 
But two of the dogs (yet Qod bless them, I said) 
Grew tired, and but set me half way to Lasswade, 
While Jones, you, and I, Wat, went on without flutter. 
And at Symonds's feasted on good bread and butter ; 
Where I, wanting a sizpenoe, you lugged out a shilling, 
And paid for me too, though I was mo&t unwilling. 

^ All Scott's letters to the friend here alluded to are said to have per- 
ished in an accidental fire. 


We parted — he sure I was ready to snivel — 
Jones and you to go home — I to go to the devil." 

In a letter of later date, describing the adventurer's 

captivation with the cottage maiden whom he afterwards 

married, there are some lines of a very different stamp. 

This couplet at least seems to me exquisite : — 

" Lowly beauty, dear friend, beams with primitive grace, 
And 't is innocence' self plays the rogue in her face." 

I find in another letter of this collection — and it is 
among the first of the series — the following passage : — 
"Your Quixotism, dear Walter, was highly characteris- 
tic. From the description of the blooming fair, as she 
appeared when she lowered her manteau vert, I am hope- 
ful you have not dropt the acquaintance. At least I am 
certain some of our more rakish friends would have been 
glad enough of such an introduction." This hint I can- 
not help connecting with the first scene of The Lad/y 
Green Mantle in Kedgauntlet; but indeed I could easily 
trace many more coincidences between these letters and 
that novel, though at the same time I have no sort of 
doubt that William Clerk was, in the main, Darsie 
Latimer, while Scott himself unquestionably sat for his 
own picture in young Alan Favrford. 

The allusion to "our more rakish friends" is in keep- 
ing with the whole strain of this juvenile correspondence. 
Throughout there occurs no coarse or even jocular sug- 
gestion as to the conduct of Scott in that particular, as 
to which most youths of his then age are so apt to lay up 
stores of self-reproach. In this season of hot and im- 
petuous blood he may not have escaped quite blameless, 
but I have the concurrent testimony of all the most inti- 
mate among his surviving associates, that he was re- 
markably free from such indiscretions; that while his 
high sense of honor shielded him from the remotest 
dream of tampering with female innocence, he had an 
instinctive delicacy about him which made him recoil 
with utter disgust from low and vulgar debaucheries. 

144 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 19 

His friends, I have heard more than one of them confess, 
used often to rally him on the coldness of his nature. By- 
degrees they discovered that he had, from almost the 
dawn of the passions, cherished a secret attachment, 
which continued, through all the most perilous stage of 
life, to act as a romantic charm in safeguard of virtue. 
This — (however he may have disguised the story by 
mixing it up with the Quixotic adventure of the damsel 
in the Green Mantle) — this was the early and innocent 
affection to which we owe the tenderest pages, not only 
of Eedgauntlet, but of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, and 
of Kokeby. In all of these works the heroine has certain 
distinctive features, drawn from one and the same haunt- 
ing dream of his manly adolescence. 

It was about 1790, according to Mr. William Clerk, 
that Scott was observed to lay aside that carelessness, 
not to say slovenliness, as to dress, which used to furnish 
matter for joking at the beginning of their acquaintance. 
He now did himself more justice in these little matters, 
became fond of mixing in general female society, and, as 
his friend expresses it, "began to set up for a squire of 

His personal appearance at this time was not unen- 
gaging. A lady of high rank,^ who well remembers him 
in the Old Assembly Kooms, says, "Young Walter Scott 
was a comely creature." He had outgrown the sallow- 
ness of early ill health, and had a fresh, brilliant com- 
plexion. His eyes were clear, open, and well set, with 
a changeful radiance, to which teeth of the most perfect 
regularity and whiteness lent their assistance, while the 
noble expanse and elevation of the brow gave to the whole 
aspect a dignity far above the charm of mere features. 
His smile was always delightful; and I can easily fancy 
the peculiar intermixture of tenderness and gravity, with 
playful innocent hilarity and humor in the expression, 
as being well calculated to fix a fair lady's eye. His 
1 The late Conntess-Duchess of Sntherland. — (1848.) 

179° FIRST LOVE 145 

figure, excepting the blemish in one limb, must in those 
days have been eminently handsome; tall, much above 
the usual standard, it was cast in the very mould of a 
young Hercules; the head set on with singular grace, 
the throat and chest after the truest model of the antique, 
the hands delicately finished; the whole outline that of 
extraordinary vigor, without as yet a touch of clumsiness. 
When he had acquired a little facility of manner, his 
conversation must have been such as could have dispensed 
with any exterior advantages, and certainly brought swift 
forgiveness for the one unkindness of nature. I have 
heard him, in talking of this part of his life, say, with 
an arch simplicity of look and tone which those who were 
familiar with him can fill in for themselves — "It was 
a proud night with me when I first found that a pretty 
young woman could think it worth her while to sit and 
talk with me, hour after hour, in a corner of the ball- 
room, while all the world were capering in our view." 

I believe, however, that the "pretty young woman" 
here specially alluded to had occupied his attention long 
before he ever appeared in the Edinburgh Assembly 
Booms, or any of his friends took note of him as "set- 
ting up for a squire of dames." I have been told that 
their acquaintance began in the Greyfriars' Churchyard, 
where rain beginning to fall one Sunday as the congre- 
gation were dispersing, Scott happened to offer his um- 
brella, and the tender being accepted, so escorted her to 
her residence, which proved to be at no great distance 
from his own.^ To return from church together had, it 
seems, grown into something like a custom, before they 
met in society, Mrs. Scott being of the party. It then 
appeared that she and the lady's mother had been com- 
panions in their youth, though, both living secludedly, 

1 In one of hia latest articles for the Quarterly Review, Seott observes, 
" There have been instances of love tales being favorably received in 
England, when told under an umbrella, and in the middle of a shower." — 
Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. xviii. 

146 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 19 

they had scarcely seen each other for many years ; and 
the two matrons now renewed their former intercourse. 
But no acquaintance appears to have existed between the 
fathers of the young people, until things had advanced in 
appearance farther than met the approbation of the good 
Clerk to the Signet. 

Being aware that the young lady, who was very highly 
connected, had prospects of fortune far above his son's, 
the upright and honorable man conceived it his duty to 
give her parents warning ihat he observed a degree of 
intimacy which, if allowed to go on, might involve the 
parties in future pain and disappointment. He had 
heard his son talk of a contemplated excursion to the 
part of the country in which his neighbor's estates lay, 
and not doubting that Walter's real object was different 
from that which he announced, introduced himself with 
a frank statement that he wished no such affair to pro- 
ceed without the express sanction of those most interested 
in the happiness of persons as yet too young to calculate 
consequences for themselves. The northern Baronet had 
heard nothing of the young apprentice's intended excur- 
sion, and appeared to treat the whole business very 
lightly. He thanked Mr. Scott for his scrupulous atten- 
tion — but added that he believed he was mistaken ; and 
this paternal interference, which Walter did not hear of 
till long afterwards, produced no change in his relations 
with the object of his growing attachment. 

I have neither the power nor the wish to give in detail 
the sequel of this story. It is sufficient to say, that after 
he had through several long years nourished the dream 
of an ultimate union with this lady, his hopes terminated 
in her being married to a gentleman of the highest char- 
acter, to whom some affectionate allusions occur in one 
of the greatest of his works, and who lived to act the 
part of a most generous friend to his early rival through- 
out the anxieties and distresses of 1826 and 1827. I 
have said enough for my purpose — which was only to 

I790 FIRST LOVE 147 

render intelligible a few allusions in the letters which I 
shall by and by have to introduce; but I may add that 
I have no doubt this unfortunate passion, besides one 
good effect already adverted to, had a powerful influence 
in nerving Scott's mind for the sedulous diligence with 
which he pursued his proper legal studies, as described 
in his Memoir, during the two or three years that pre- 
ceded his call to the Bar.^ 

^ [The object of the strongest, or perhaps it should be said the single, 
passion of Scott's life was Williamina, the only child of Sir John Wishart 
Belsches Stuart of Fettercaim, and his wife, the Lady Jane Leslie, daugh- 
ter of David, Earl of Leven and Melville. Beside beauty of person, sweet- 
ness of disposition, a quick intelligence, and cultivated tastes, Miss Stuart 
seems to have possessed in large measure that indefinable but potent gift, 
which is called charm. Through some misapprehension, Lockhart appears 
to have antedated the beginning of her influence over Scott, as in 1790 she 
was hardly more than a child, and she was not sixteen when he was called 
to the Bar, though the meeting in the Greyfriars' Churchyard had prob- 
ably already taken place. The " three years of dreaming " were ended, as 
the biographer narrates, in the autumn of 1796. On January 19, 1797, Miss 
Stuart waa married to William Forbes, son and heir of Sir William Forbes 
of FitsUgo, an eminent banker, and the author of a Life of his friend Beat- 
tie. Scott's afEeotionate allusions to his early rival will be found in the 
Introduction to the Fourth Canto of Marmion : — 

" And one whoae name I may not Bay, — 
For not mimosa's tender tree 
Shrinks sooner from the touch than he," — 

an Introduction inscribed to James Skene of Rubislaw, whose marriage to 
a daughter of Sir William had been speedily followed by the father's 
death. Mr. Forbes succeeded to the baronetcy in 1806, and his wife, on 
the death of Sir John Stuart, inherited Fettercaim. She died December 
5, 1810, after thirteen years of unclouded happiness. Dean Boyle has 
recorded that Lockhart once read to him the letter " full of beauty," which 
Scott wrote to the bereaved husband at this time. Lady Stuart-Forbes 
left six children, four sons and two daughters. The three sons who sur- 
vived to maturity all were men of unusual ability. 

The story of Williamina Stuart's brief lite was told for the first time 
with any fulness by Miss F. M. F. Skene in the Century Magazine for July, 
1899. As the daughter of one of Scott's, earliest and dearest friends and 
the niece of Sir William Forbes, she could write with knowledge. She 
says that from the day of his wife's death, " so far as society and the outer 
world were concerned. Sir William Forbes may be said to have died with 
her. He retired into the most complete seclusion, maintaining the heart- 
stricken silence of a grief too deep for words, and scarcely seeing even his 
own nearest relatives. Only at the call of duty did he ever emerge from his 

148 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 19 

retirement," as when he proved so stanch a friend to Scott in the darkest 
days of 1826 and 1827- 

A charming portrait, after a miniatnre by Cosway, accompanies Miss 
Skene's sketch of Lady Stnart-Forbes, — a pleasing contrast to the picture, 
without merit, either as a work of art or as a likeness, which was engraved 
for the Memoir of her youngest son, James David Forbes.] 




The two following letters may sufficiently illustrate 
the writer's every-day existence in the autumn of 1790. 
The first, addressed to his fidus Achates, has not a few 
indications of the vein of humor from which he afterwards 
drew so largely in his novels; and indeed, even in his last 
days, he delighted to tell the story of the Jedburgh 
bailies' boots. 


BOSEBANE, 6th August, 1790. 

Dear William, — Here am I, the weather, according 
to your phrase, most bitcWferous; the Tweed, within 
twenty yards of the windowaT which I am writing, 
swelled from bank to brae, and roaring like thunder. It 
is paying you but a poor compliment to tell you I waited 
for such a day to perform my promise of writing, but 
you must consider that it is the point here to reserve such 
within-doors employment as we think most agreeable for 
bad weather, which in the country always wants some- 
thing to help it away. In fair weather we are far from 
wanting amusement, which at present is my business; on 
the contrary, every fair day has some plan of pleasure 
annexed to it, in so much that I can hardly believe I 
have been here above two days, so swiftly does the time 


pass away. You will ask how it is employed? Why, 
negatively, I read mo civil law. Heineccius and Ms fel- 
low-worthies have ample time to gather a venerable coat 
of dust, which they merit by their dulness. As to my 
positive amusements, besides riding, fishing, and the 
oljher usual sports of the country, I often spend an hour 
or two in the evening in shooting herons, which axe nur 
merous on this part of the river. To do this I have no 
farther to go than the bottom of our garden, which liter- 
ally hangs over the river. When you fire at a bird, she 
always crosses the river, and when again shot at with 
ball, usually returns to your side, and will cross in this 
way several times before she takes wing. This furnishes 
fine sport; nor are they easily shot, as you never can get ■ 
very near them. The intervals between their appearing 
are spent very agreeably in eating gooseberries. 

Yesterday was St. James's Fair, a day of great busi- 
ness. There was a great show of black cattle — I mean 
of ministers; the narrowness of their stipends here 
obliges many of them to enlarge their incomes by taking 
farms and grazing cattle. This, in my opinion, dimin- 
ishes their respectability, nor can the farmer be supposed 
to entertain any great reverence for the ghostly advice of 
a pastor (they literally deserve the epithet) who perhaps 
the day before overreached him in a bargain. I would 
not have you to suppose there are no exceptions to this 
character, but it would serve most of them. I had been 
fishing with my uncle. Captain Scott, on the Teviot, and 
returned through the ground where the Fair is kept. 
The servant was waiting there with our horses, as we 
were to ride the water. Lucky it was that it was so; for 
just about that time the magistrates of Jedburgh, who 
preside there, began their solemn procession through the 
Fair. For the greater dignity upon this occasion they 
had a pair of boots among three men — i. e. , as they ride 
three in a rank, the outer legs of those personages who 
formed the outside, as it may be called, of the procession, 

I790 ROSEBANK 151 

were each clothed in a boot. This and several other in- 
congruous appearances were thrown in the teeth of those 
cavaliers by the Kelso populace, and, by the assistance 
of whiskey, parties were soon inflamed to a very tight 
battle, one of that kind which, for distinction sake, is 
called royal. It was not without great difficulty that we 
extricated ourselves from the confusion ; and had we been 
on foot, we might have been trampled down by these 
fierce Jedburghians, who charged like so many troopers. 
We were spectators of the combat from an eminence, but 
peace was soon after restored, which made the older 
warriors regret the effeminacy of the age, as, regularly, 
it ought to have lasted till night. Two lives were lost, 
I mean of horses; indeed, had you seen them, you would 
rather have wondered that they were able to bear their 
masters to the scene of action, than that they could not 
carry them off.-' 

I am ashamed to read over this sheet of nonsense, so 
excuse inaccuracies. Kemember me to the lads of the 
Literary, those of the club in particular. I wrote Irving. 
Eemember my most respectful compliments to Mr. and 
Mrs. Clerk and family, particularly James; when you 
write, let me know how he did when you heard of him. 
Imitate me in writing a long letter, but not in being long 
in writing it. Direct to me at Miss Scott's, Garden, 
Kelso. My letters lie there for me, as it saves their 
being sent down to Rosebank. The carrier puts up at 
the Grassmarket, and goes away on Wednesday fore- 
noon. Yours, Walter Scott. 

* Mr. Andrew Shortreed (one of a family often mentioned in these Me- 
moirs) says, in a letter of November, 1838 : " The joke of the one pair of 
boots to *Aree^aiV of legs was so unpalatable to Ae honest burghers of 
Jedburgh, that they have suffered the ancient privilege of ' riding the Fair,' 
as it was called (during which ceremony the inhabitants of Kelso were 
compelled to shut up their shops as on a holiday), to fall into disnse. Huoy, 
the runaway forger, a native of Eelso, availed himself of the calumny in a 
clever squib on the subject : — 

* The outside man had each a boot, 
The three had but a pair.' " 

152 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 19 

The next letter is dated from a house at which I have 
often seen the writer in his latter days. Kippilaw, situ- 
ated about five or six miles behind Abbotsford, on the 
high ground between the Tweed and the Water of Ayle, 
is the seat of an ancient laird of the clan Kerr, but was 
at this time tenanted by the family of Walter's brother- 
apprentice, James Ramsay, who afterwards realized a 
fortune in the civil service of Ceylon. 


Kippilaw, September 3, 1790. 

Dear Cleek, — I am now writing from the country 
habitation of our friend Ramsay, where I have been 
spending a week as pleasantly as ever I spent one in my 
life. Imagine a commodious old house, pleasantly situ- 
ated amongst a knot of venerable elms, in a fine sport- 
ing, open country, and only two miles from an excellent 
water for trouts, inhabited by two of the best old ladies 
(Ramsay's aunts), and three as pleasant young ones (his 
sisters) as any person could wish to converse with — and 
you will have some idea of Kippilaw. James and I 
wander about, fish, or look for hares, the whole day, and 
at night laugh, chat, and play round games at cards. 
Such is the fatherland in which I have been living for 
some days past, and which I leave to-night or to-morrow. 
This day is very bad; notwithstanding which, James has 
sallied out to make some calls, as he soon leaves the 
country. I have a great mind to trouble him with the 
care of this. 

And now for your letter, the receipt of which I have 
not, I think, yet acknowledged, though I am much 
obliged to you for it. I dare say you would relish your 
jaunt to Pennycuik very much, especially considering 
the solitary desert of Edinburgh, from which it relieved 
you. By the bye, know, O thou devourer of grapes, 
who contemnest the vulgar gooseberry, that thou art not 
singular in thy devouring — nee tam aversus equos sol 

I790 KIPPILAW 153 

jungit ah urhe (JKdsoniana scilicet) — my uncle being 
the lawful possessor of a vinery measuring no less than 
twenty-four feet by twelve, the contents of which come 
often in my way; and, according to the proverb, that 
enough is as good as a feast, are equally acceptable as 
if they came out of the most extensive vineyard in 
France. I cannot, however, equal your boast of break- 
fasting, dining, and supping on them. As for the civil- 
ians 1 — peace be with them, and may the dust lie light 
upon their heads — they deserve this prayer in return for 
those sweet slumbers which their benign influence infuses 
into their readers. I fear I shall too soon be forced to 
disturb them, for some of our family being now at Kelso, 
I am under the agonies lest I be obliged to escort them 
into town. The only pleasure I shall reap by this is 'that 
of asking you how you do, and, perhaps, the solid advan- 
tage of completing our studies before the College sits 
down. Employ, therefore, your mornings in slumber 
while you can, for soon it will be chased from your eyes. 
I plume myself on my sagacity with regard to C. J. 
F0X.2 I always foretold you would tire of him — a vile 
brute. I have not yet forgot the narrow escape of my 
fingers. I rejoice at James's ^ intimacy with Miss Men- 
zies. She promised to turn out a fine girl, has a fine 
fortune, and could James get her, he might sing, "I'll 
go no more to sea, to sea." Give my love to him when 
you write. — " God preserve us, what a scrawl!" says 
one of the ladies just now, in admiration at the expedition 
with which I scribble. Well — I was never able in my 
life to do anything with what is called gravity and delib- 

I dined two days ago tete-a-tete with Lord Buchan. 
Heard a history of all his ancestors whom he has hung 
round his chimney-piece. From counting of pedigrees, 

1 Books on Civil Law. 

2 A tame fox of Mr. Clerk's, -which he soon dismissed. 

3 Mr. James Clerk, K. N. 

154 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 19 

good Lord deliver us! He is thinking of erecting a 
monument to Thomson. He frequented Dryburgh much 
in my grandfather's time. It will be a handsome thing. 
As to your scamp of a boy, I saw nothing of him ; but 
the face is enough to condemn there. I have seen a ma n 
flogge d for stealing spirits on the sole informa,tipn_ofhi8 
nose. Remember me respectfully to your family. 
Believe me yours affectionately, 

Walter Scott. 

After his return from the scene of these merry doings, 
he writes as follows to his kind uncle. The reader will 
see that, in the course of the preceding year, he had an- 
nounced his early views of the origin of what is called 
the feudal system, in a paper read before the Literary 
Society. He, in the succeeding winter, chose the same 
subject for an essay, submitted to Mr. Dugald Stewart, 
whose prelections on ethics he was then attending. Some 
time later he again illustrated the same opinions more at 
length in a disquisition before the Speculative Society; 
and, indeed, he always adhered to them. One of the 
last historical books he read, before leaving Abbotsford 
for Malta in 1831, was Colonel Tod's interesting account 
of Rajasthan; and I well remember the delight he ex- 
pressed on finding his views confirmed, as they certainly 
are in a very striking manner, by the philosophical sol- 
dier's details of the structure of society in that remote 
region of the East. 


EDiKBtTEGH, September SO, 1790. 

Dear Uncle, — We arrived here without any acci- 
dent about five o'clock on Monday evening. The good 
weather made our journey pleasant. I have been attend- 
ing to your commissions here, and find that the last vol- 
ume of Dodsley's Annual Register published is that for 
1787, which I was about to send you ; but the bookseller 


I frequent had not one in boards, thougli he expects to 
procure one for me. There is a new work of the same 
title and size, on the same plan, which, being published 
every year regularly, has almost cut out Dodsley's, so 
that this last is expected to stop altogether. You will 
let me know if you would wish to have the new work, 
which is a good one, will join very well with those vol- 
umes of Dodsley's which you already have, and is pub- 
lished up to the present year. Byron's Narrative is not 
yet published, but you shall have it whenever it comes 

Agreeable to your permission, I send you the scroll 
copy of an essay on the origin of the feudal system, writ- 
ten for the Literary Society last year. As you are kind 
enough to interest yourself in my style and manner of 
writing, I thought you might like better to see it in its 
original state, than one on the polishing of which more 
time had been bestowed. You will see that the intention 
and attempt of the essay is principally to controvert two 
propositions laid down by the writers on the subject : — 
1st, That the system was invented by the Lombards; 
and, 2dly, that its foundation depended on the king's 
being acknowledged the sole lord of all the lands in the 
country, which he afterwards distributed to be held by 
military tenures. I have endeavored to assign it a more 
general origin, and to prove that it proceeds upon princi- 
ples common to all nations when placed in a certain situ- 
ation. I am afraid the matter will but poorly reward 
the trouble you will find in reading some parts. I hope, 
however, you will make out enough to enable you to 
favor me with your sentiments upon its faults. There is 
none whose advice I prize so high, for there is none in 
whose judgment I can so much confide, or who has shown 
me so much kindness. 

I also send, as amusement for an idle half hour, a copy 
of the regulations of our Society, some of which will, I 
think, be favored with your approbation. 

156 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 19 

My mother and sister join in compliments to aunt and 
you, and also in thanks for the attentions and hospitality 
which they experienced at Bosebank. And I am ever 
your affectionate nephew, 

Walter Scott. 

P. S. — If you continue to want a mastiff, I think I 
can procure you one of a good breed, and send him by 
the carrier. 

While attending Mr. Dugald Stewart's class, in the 
winter of 1790-91, Scott produced, in compliance with 
the usual custom of ethical students, several essays besides 
that to which I have already made an allusion, and which 
was, I believe, entitled. On the Manners and Customs of 
the Northern Nations. But this essay it was that first 
attracted, in any particular manner, his Professor's at- 
tention. Mr. Robert Ainslie,^ well known as the friend 
and fellow-traveller of Burns, happened to attend Stew- 
art the same session, and remembers his saying, ex ca- 
thedra, " The author of this paper shows niuch knowledge 
of his subject, and a great taste for such researches." 
Scott became, before the close of the session, a frequent 
visitor in Mr. Stewart's family, and an affectionate in- 
tercourse was maintained between them through their 

Let me here set down a little story which most of his 
friends must have heard him tell of the same period. 
While attending Dugald Stewart's lectures on moral 
philosophy, Scott happened to sit frequently beside a 
modest and diligent youth, considerably his senior, and 
obviously of very humble condition. Their acquaintance 
soon became rather intimate, and he occasionally made 
this new friend the companion of his country walks, but 
as to his parentage and place of residence he always 
preserved total silence. One day towards the end of the 
session, as Scott was returning to Edinburgh from a soli- 

^ Mi. Ainslie died at Edmbnrgh, llUi April, 1838, in his 73d year. 


tary ramble, his eye was arrested by a singularly vener- 
able Bluegown, a beggar of the Edie Ochiltree order, 
who stood propped on his stick, with his hat in his hand, 
but silent and motionless, at one of the outskirts of the 
city. Scott gave the old man what trifle he had in his 
pocket, and passed on his way. Two or three times 
afterwards the same thing happened, and he had begun 
to consider the Bluegown as one who had established a 
claim on his bounty : when one day he fell in with him 
as he was walking with his humble student. Observing 
some confusion in his companion's manner as he saluted 
his pensioner, and bestowed the usual benefaction, he 
could not help saying, after they had proceeded a few 
yards further, "Do you know anything to the old man's 
discredit?" Upon which the youth burst into tears, and 
cried, " Oh no, sir, God forbid I — but I am a poor wretch 
to be ashamed to speak to him — he is my own father. 
He has enough laid by to serve for his own old days, but 
he stands bleaching his head in the wind, that he may 
get the means of paying for my education." Compas- 
sionating the young man's situation, Scott soothed his 
weakness, and kept his secret, but by no means broke off 
the acquaintance. Some months had elapsed before he 
again met the Bluegown — it was in a retired place, and 
the old man begged to speak a word with him. "I find, 
sir," he said, "that you have been very kind to my Wil- 
lie. He had often spoke of it before I saw you together. 
Will you pardon such a liberty, and give me the honor 
and pleasure of seeing you under my poor roof? To- 
morrow is Saturday; will you come at two o'clock? 
Willie has not been very well, and it would do him 
meikle good to see your face." His curiosity, besides 
better feelings, was touched, and he accepted this strange 
invitation. The appointed hour found him within sight 
of a sequestered little cottage, near St. Leonard's — the 
hamlet where he has placed the residence of his David 
Deans. His fellow-student, pale and emaciated from 

158 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 19 

recent sickness, was seated on a stone bench by the door, 
looking out for his coming, and introduced him into a 
not untidy cabin, where the old man, divested of his pro- 
fessional garb, was directing the last vibrations of a leg 
of mutton that hung by a hempen cord before the fire. 
The mutton was excellent — so were the potatoes and 
whiskey; and Scott returned home from an entertaining 
conversation, in which, besides telling many queer stories 
of his own life — and he had seen service in his youth — 
the old man more than once used an expression, which 
was long afterwards put into the mouth of Dominie 
Sampson's mother: — "Please God, I may live to see 
my bairn wag his head in a pulpit yet." 

Walter could not help telling all this the same night 
to his mother, and added, that he would fain see his poor 
friend obtain a tutor's place in some gentleman's family. 
"Dinna speak to your father about it," said the good 
lady; "if it had been a shoulder he might have thought 
less, but he will say the jigot was a sin. I '11 see what I 
can do." Mrs. Scott made her inquiries in her own way 
among the Professors, and having satisfied herself as to 
the young man's character, applied to her favorite minis- 
ter. Dr. Erskine, whose influence soon procured such a 
situation as had been suggested for him, in the north of 
Scotland. "And thenceforth," said Sir "Walter, "I lost 
sight of my friend — but let us hope he made out his cur- 
ricvlum at Aberdeen, and is now wagging his head where 
the fine old carle wished to see him."^ 

On the 4th January, 1791, Scott was admitted a mem- 
ber of The Speculative Society, where it had, long be- 
fore, been the custom of those about to be called to the 

1 The reader will find a story not unlike this in the Introduction to The 
Antiquary, 1830. When I first read that note, I asked him why he 
had altered so many circumstances from the usual oral edition of his anec- 
dote. " Nay," said he, " both stories may be true, and why should I be 
always lugging in myself, when what happened to another of our class 
would serve equally well for the purpose I had in view f " I regretted the 
leg of mutton. 


Bar, and those who after assuming the gown were left in 
possession of leisure by the solicitors, to train or exercise 
themselves in the arts of elocution and debate. From 
time to time each member produces an essay, and his 
treatment of his subject is then discussed by the conclave, 
Scott's essays were, for November, 1791, On the Origin 
of the Feudal System; for the 14th February, 1792, On 
the Authenticity of Ossian's Poems; and on the 11th 
December of the same year, he read one. On the Origin 
of the Scandinavian Mythology. The selection of these 
subjects shows the course of his private studies and pre- 
dilections; but he appears, from the minutes, to have 
taken his fair share in the ordinary debates of the So- 
ciety, — and spoke, in the spring of 1791, on these ques- 
tions, which all belong to the established text-book for 
juvenile speculation in Edinburgh: — "Ought any per- 
manent support to be provided for the poor?" "Ought 
there to be an established religion?" "Is attainder and 
corruption of blood ever a proper punishment ? " " Ought 
the public expenses to be defrayed by levying the amount 
directly upon the people, or is it expedient to contract 
national debt for that purpose?" "Was the execution 
of Charles I. justifiable?" "Should the slave-trade be 
abolished? " In the next session, previous to his call to 
the Bar, he spoke in the debates of which these were the 
theses: — "Has the belief in a future state been of ad- 
vantage to mankind, or is it ever likely to be so? " "Is 
it for the interest of Britain to maintain what is called 
the balance of Europe ? " and again on the eternal ques- 
tion as to the fate of King Charles I., which, by the way, 
was thus set up for re-discussion on a motion by Wal- 
ter Scott. 

He took, for several winters, an ardent interest in this 
society. Very soon after his admission (18th January, 
1791), he was elected their librarian; and in the Novem- 
ber following he became also their secretary and trea- 
surer; all which appointments indicate the reliance placed 

i6o SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 20 

on his careful habits of business, the fruit of his chamber 
education. The minutes kept in his handwriting attest 
the strict regularity of his attention to the small affairs, 
literary and financial, of the club; but they show also, 
as do all his early letters, a strange carelessness in spell- 
ing. His constant good temper softened the asperities 
of debate; while his multifarious lore, and the quaint 
humor with which he enlivened its display, made him 
more a favorite as a speaker than some whose powers of 
rhetoric were far above his. 

Lord Jeffrey remembers being struck, the first night 
he spent at the Speculative, with the singular appearance 
of the secretary, who sat gravely at the bottom of the 
table in a huge woollen nightcap; and when the presi- 
dent took the chair, pleaded a bad toothache as his apol- 
ogy for coming into that worshipful assembly in such a 
"portentous machine." He read that night an essay on 
ballads, which so much interested the new member that 
he requested to be introduced to him. Mr. Jeffrey called 
on him next evening, and found him " in a small den, on 
the sunk floor of his father's house in George's Square, 
surrounded with dingy books," from which they ad- 
journed to a tavern, and supped together. Such was the 
commencement of an acquaintance, which by degrees 
ripened into friendship, between the two most distin- 
guished men of letters whom Edinburgh produced in their 
time. I may add here the description of that early den, 
with which I am favored by a lady of Scott's family: — ' 
"Walter had soon begun to collect out-of-the-way things 
of all sorts. He had more books than shelves ; a small 
painted cabinet, with Scotch and Boman coins in it, and 
so forth. A claymore and Lochaber axe, given him by 
old Invernahyle, mounted guard on a little print of 
Prince Charlie; and Broughton's Saucer was hooked up 
against the waU below it." Such was the germ of the 
magnificent library and museum of Abbotsf ord ; and such 
were the "new realms" in which he, on taking posses- 


sion, had arranged his little paraphernalia about him 
"with all the feelings of novelty and liberty." Since 
those days, the habits of life in Edinburgh, as elsewhere, 
have undergone many changes: and the "convenient 
parlor," in which Scott first showed Jeffrey his collec- 
tions of minstrelsy, is now, in all probability, thought 
hardly good enough for a menial's sleeping-room. 

. But I have forgotten to explain Broughton's Saucer. 
We read of Mr. Saunders Fairford, that though "an 
elder of the kirk, and of course zealous for King George 
and the Government," yet, having "many clients and 
connections of business among families of opposite politi- 
cal tenets, he was particularly cautious to use all the 
conventional phrases which the civility of the time had 
devised as an admissible mode of language betwixt the 
two parties : Thus he spoke sometimes of the Chevalier, 
but never either of the Prince, which would have been 
sacrificing his own principles, or of the Pretender, which 
would have been offensive to those of others : Again, he 
usually designated the Eebellion as the affair of 1745, 
and spoke of any one engaged in it as a person who had 
been out at a certain period — so that, on the whole, he 
was much liked and respected on all sides. "^ All this 
was true of Mr. Walter Scott, W. S. ; but I have often 
heard his son tell an anecdote of him, which he dwelt on 
with particular satisfaction, as illustrative of the man, 
and of the difficult time through which he had lived. 

Mrs. Scott's curiosity was strongly excited one autumn 
by the regular appearance, at a certain hour every even- 
ing, of a sedan chair, to deposit a person carefully muf- 
fled up in a mantle, who was immediately ushered into 
her husband's private room, and commonly remained 
with him there until long after the usual bedtime of this 
orderly family. Mr. Scott answered her repeated in- 
quiries with a vagueness which irritated the lady's feel- 
ings more and more; until, at last, she could bear the 
' Bedgauntlet, chap. i. 

1 62 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 20 

thing no longer; but one evening, just as she heard the 
bell ring as for the stranger's chair to carry him off, she 
made her appearance within the forbidden parlor with 
a salver in her hand, observing that she thought the gen- 
tlemen had sat so long, they would be the better of a dish 
of tea, and had ventured accordingly to bring some for 
their acceptance. The stranger, a person of distinguished 
appearance, and richly dressed, bowed to the lady, and 
accepted a cup ; but her husband knit his brows, and re- 
fused very coldly to partake the refreshment. A moment 
afterwards the visitor withdrew — and Mr. Scott, lifting 
up the window-sash, took the cup which he had left empty 
on the table, and tossed it out upon the pavement. The 
lady exclaimed for her china, but was put to silence by 
her husband's saying, "I can forgive your little curiosity, 
madam, but you must pay the penalty. I may admit 
into my house, on a piece of business, persons wholly 
unworthy to be treated as guests by my wife. Neither 
lip of me nor of mine comes after Mr. Murray of Brough- 

This was the unhappy man who, after attending Prince 
Charles Stuart as his secretary throughout the greater 
part of his expedition, condescended to redeem his own 
life and fortime by bearing evidence against the noblest 
of his late master's adherents, when 

" Pitied by gentle hearts Kilmarnock died — 
The braTe, Balmerino, were on thy side." 

When confronted with Sir John Douglas of Kelhead 
{ancestor of the Marquess of Queensberry), before the 
Privy Council in St. James's, the prisoner was asked, 
"Do you know this witness?" "Not I," answered 
Douglas; "I once knew a person who bore the designa- 
tion of Murray of Broughton — but that was a gentle- 
man and a man of honor, and one that could hold up his 

The saucer belonging to Broughton's teacup had been 
preserved; and Walter, at a very early period, made 


prize of it. One can fancy young Alan Fairford point- 
ing significantly to the relic, when Mr. Saunders was 
vouchsafing him one of his customary lectures about lis- 
tening with unseemly sympathy to "the blawing, bleezing 
stories which the Hieland gentlemen told of those trou- 
blous times." ^ 

The following letter is the only one of the autumn of 
1791 that has reached my hands. It must be read with 
particular interest for its account of Scott's first visit to 
Flodden field, destined to be celebrated seventeen years 
afterwards in the very noblest specimen of his num- 
bers : — 


NORTHnMBBBLAND, 26th AugUSt, 1791. 

Dear Clerk, — Behold a letter from the mountains ; 
for I am very snugly settled here, in a farmer's house, 
about six miles from Wooler, in the very centre of the 
Cheviot hills, in one of the wildest and most romantic 
situations which your imagination, fertile upon the sub- 
ject of cottages, ever suggested. And what the deuce 
are you about there? methinks I hear you say. Why, 
sir, of all things in the world — drinking goat's whey — 
not that I stand in the least need of it, but my uncle 
having a slight cold, and being a little tired of home, 
asked me last Sunday evening if I would like to go with 
him to Wooler, and I answering in the affirmative, next 
morning's sun beheld us on our journey, through a pass 
in the Cheviots, upon the back of two special nags, and 
man Thomas behind with a portmanteau, and two fishing- 
rods fastened across his back, much in the style of St. 
Andrew's Cross. Upon reaching Wooler we found the 
accommodations so bad that we were forced to use some 
interest to get lodgings here, where we are most delight- 
fully appointed indeed. To add to my satisfaction, we 
are amidst places renowned by the feats of former days; 
' Sedgauntlet, letter iz. 

1 64 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 20 

each hill is crowned with a tower, or camp, or cairn, and 
in no situation can you be near more fields of battle: 
riodden, Otterburn, Chevy Chase, Ford Castle, Chilling- 
ham Castle, Copland Castle, and many another scene of 
blood, are within the compass of a forenoon's ride. Out 
of the brooks, with which these hills are intersected, we 
pull trouts of half a yard in length, as fast as we did the 
perches from the pond at Pennycuik, and we are in the 
very country of muirfowl. 

Often as I have wished for your company, I never did 
it more earnestly than when I rode over Flodden Edge. 
I know your taste for these things, and could have under- 
taken to demonstrate that never was an affair more com- 
pletely bungled than that day's work was. Suppose one 
army posted upon the face of a hill, and secured by high 
grounds projecting on each flank, with the river Till in 
front, a deep and still river, winding through a very ex- 
tensive valley called Milfield Plain, and the only passage 
over it by a narrow bridge, which the Scots artillery, 
from the hill, could in a moment have demolished. Add, 
that the English must have hazarded a battle while their 
troops, which were tumultuously levied, remained to- 
gether; and that the Scots, behind whom the country 
was open to Scotland, had nothing to do but to wait for 
the attack as they were posted. Yet did two thirds of 
the army, actuated by the perferoidum ingenium Sco- 
torum, rush down and give an opportunity to Stanley to 
occupy the ground they had quitted, by coming over the 
shoulder of the hill, while the other third, under Lord 
Home, kept their ground, and having seen their king 
and about 10,000 of their countrymen cut to pieces, re- 
tired into Scotland without loss. For the reason of the 
bridge not being destroyed while the English passed, I 
refer you to Pitscottie, who narrates at large, and to 
whom I give credit for a most accurate and clear descrip- 
tion, agreeing perfectly with the ground. 

My uncle drinks the whey here, as I do ever since I 


understood it was brought to his bedside every morning 
at six, by a very pretty dairy-maid. So much for my 
residence : all the day we shoot, fish, walk, and ride ; 
dine and sup upon fish struggling from the stream, and 
the most delicious heath-fed mutton, barn-door fowls, 
poys,^ milk-cheese, etc., all in perfection; and so much 
simplicity resides among these hills, that a pen, which 
could write at least, was not to be found about the house, 
though belonging to a considerable farmer, till I shot the 
crow with whose quill I write this epistle. I wrote to 
Irving before leaving Kelso. Poor fellow, I am sure 
his sister's death must have hurt him much ; though he 
makes no noise about feelings, yet still streams always 
run deepest. I sent a message by him to Edie,^ poor 
devil, adding my mite of consolation to him in his afflic- 
tion. I pity poor ***** *^ ^Jjq is more deserving of 
compassion, being his first offence. Write soon, and as 
long as the last; you will have Perthshire news, I sup- 
pose, soon. Jamie's adventure diverted me much. I 
read it to my uncle, who being long in the India service, 
was affronted. Remember me to James when you write, 
and to all your family, and friends in general. I send 
this to Kelso — you may address as usual; my letters 
will be forwarded — adieu — au revoir, 

Walter Scott. 

With the exception of this little excursion, Scott ap- 
pears to have been nailed to Edinburgh during this au- 
tumn, by that course of legal study, in company with 
Clerk, on which he dwells in his Memoir with more 
satisfaction than on any other passage in his early life. 
He copied out twice, as the fragment tells us, his notes 
of those lectures of the eminent Scots Law professor 
(Mr. Hume), which he speaks of in such a high strain 
of eulogy; and Mr. Irving adds that the second copy, 
being fairly finished and bound into volumes, was pre- 
1 Pies. ^ Sir A. Ferguson. 

1 66 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 20 

sented to his father. The old gentleman was highly 
gratified with this performance, not only as a satisfactory 
proof of his son's assiduous attention to the law profes- 
sor, but inasmuch as the lectures afforded himself "very 
pleasant reading for leisure hours." 

Mr. Clerk assures me that nothing could be more 
exact (excepting as to a few petty circumstances intro- 
duced for obvious reasons) than the resemblance of the 
Mr. Saunders Fairford of Eedgauntlet to his friend's 
father: — "He was a man of business of the old school, 
moderate in his charges, economical, and even niggardly 
in his expenditure; strictly honest in conducting his 
own affairs and those of his clients ; but taught by long 
experience to be wary and suspicious in observing the 
motions of others. Punctual as the clock of St. Giles 
tolled nine" (the hour at which the Court of Session 
meets), "the dapper form of the hale old gentleman was 
seen at the threshold of the court hall, or, at farthest, at 
the head of the Back Stairs " (the most convenient access 
to the Parliament House from George's Square), "trimly 
dressed in a complete suit of snuff-colored brown, with 
stockings of silk or woollen, as suited the weather ; a bob 
wig and a small cocked hat; shoes blacked as Warren 
would have blacked them ; silver shoe-buckles, and a gold 
stock-buckle. His manners corresponded with his attire, 
for they were scrupulously civil, and not a little formal. 
. . . On the whole, he was a man much liked and re- 
spected, though his friends would not have been sorry if 
he had given a dinner more frequently, as his little cellar 
contained some choice old wine, of which, on such rare 
occasions, he was no niggard. The whole pleasure of 
this good old-fashioned man of method, besides that 
which he really felt in the discharge of his own daily 
business, was the hope to see his son attain what in the 
father's eyes was the proudest of all distinctions — the 
rank and fame of a well-employed lawyer. Every pro- 
fession has its peculiar honors, and his mind was con- 

1792 CALL TO THE BAR 167 

structed upon so limited and exclusive a plan, that he 
valued nothing save the objects of ambition which his 
own presented. He would have shuddered at his son's 
acquiring the renown of a hero, and laughed with scorn 
at the equally barren laurels of literature ; it was by the 
path of the law alone that he was desirous to see him rise 
to eminence; and the probabilities of success or disap- 
pointment were the thoughts of his father by day, and 
his dream by night." ^ 

It is easy to imagine the original of this portrait, writ- 
ing to one of his friends, about the end of June, 1792 — 
" I have the pleasure to tell you that my son has passed 
his private Scots Law examinations with good approba- 
tion — a great relief to my mind, especially as worthy 
Mr. Pest 2 told me in my ear, there was no fear of the 
' callant, ' as he familiarly called him, which gives me 
great heart. His public trials, which are nothing in 
comparison, save a mere form, are to take place, by order 
of the Honorable Dean of Faculty,^ on Wednesday first, 
and on Friday he puts on the gown, and gives a bit chack 
of dinner to his friends and acquaintances, as is the cus- 
tom. Your company will be wished for there by more 
than him. — P. 8. His thesis is on the title, De pericido 
et commodo rei venditce, and is a very pretty piece of 

And all things passed in due order, even as they are 
figured. The real Darsie was present at the real Alan 
Fairford's "bit chack of dinner," and the old Clerk of 
the Signet was very joyous on the occasion. Scott's 
thesis was, in fact, on the Title of the Pandects, Con- 
cerning the disposal of the dead bodies of Criminals. It 

' Bedgauntlet, chap. i. 

^ It has been suggested that Pest is a misprint for Peat. There was an 
elderly practitioner of the latter name, -with whom Mr. Fairford must have 
been well acquainted. — (1839.) 

^ The situation of Dean of Faculty was filled in 1792 by the Honoiable 
Henry Erskine, of witty and benevolent memory. 

* Bedgauntlet, letter ix. 

1 68 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 20 

was dedicated, I doubt not by the careful father's advice, 
to his friend and neighbor in George's Square, the coarsely 
humorous, but acute and able, and still well-remembered, 
Macqueen of Braxfield, then Lord Justice-Clerk (or 
President of the Supreme Criminal Court) of Scotland.^ 

I have often heard both Alan and Darsie laugh over 
their reminiscences of the important day when they "put 
on the gown." After the ceremony was completed, and 
they had mingled for some time with the crowd of barris- 
ters in the Outer Court, Scott said to his comrade, mim- 
icking the air and tone of a Highland lass waiting at the 
Cross of Edinburgh to be hired for the harvest work — 
"We 've stood here an hour by the Tron, hinny, and de'il 
a ane has speered our price." Some friendly solicitor, 
however, gave him a guinea fee before the Court rose; 
and as they walked down the High Street together, he 
said to Mr. Clerk, in passing a hosier's shop — "This is 
a sort of a wedding-day, Willie ; I think I must go in 
and buy me a new nightcap." He did so accordingly; 
perhaps this was Lord Jeffrey's "portentous machine." 
His first fee of any consequence, however, was expended 
on a silver taper-stand for his mother, which the old lady 
used to point to with great satisfaction, as it stood on her 
chimney-piece five-and-twenty years afterwards. 

' An eminent annotator observes on this passage : — "The praise of 
Lord Braxfield's capainty and acquirement is perhaps rather too slight. 
He was a very good lawyer, and a man of extraordinary sagacity, and in 
quickness and sureness of apprehension resembled Lord Kenyon, as well 
as in his ready use of his profound knowledge of law." — (1839.) 




Scott was called to the Bar only the day before the 
closing of the session, and he appears to have almost 
immediately escaped to the country. On the 2d of Au- 
gust I find his father writing, ^— "I have sent the copies 
of your thesis as desired; " and on the 15th he addressed 
to him at Rosebank a letter, in which there is this para- 
graph, an undoubted autograph of Mr. Saunders Fair- 
ford, anno cetatis sixty -three : — 

" Dear "Walter, — ... I am glad that your expedition to 
the west proyed agreeable. You do well to warn your mother 
against Ashestiel. Although I said little, yet I never thought 
that road could be agreeable ; besides, it is taking too wide a 
circle. Lord Justice-Clerk is in town attending the BiUs.^ He 
called here yesterday, and inquired very particularly for you. 
I told him where you was, and he expects to see you at Jed- 
burgh upon the 2ist. He is to be at Mellerstain ^ on the 20th, 
and wDl be there all night. His Lordship said, in a very plear 
sant manner, that something might cast up at Jedburgh to give 
you an opportunity of appearing, and that he would insist upon 

1 The Judges then attended in Edinburgh in rotation during the inter- 
vals of term, to take care of various sorts of business which could not 
brook delay, bills of injunction, etc. 

^ The beautiful seat of the BaiUies of Jerviswood, in Berwickshire, a 
few miles below Dryburgh. 

lyo SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 21 

it, and that in future he meant to give you a share of the crimi- 
nal business in this Court, — all which is very kind. I told his 
Lordship that I had dissuaded you from appearing at Jedburgh, 
but he said I was wrong in doing so, and I therefore leave the 
matter to you and him. I think it is probable he wUl breakfast 
with Sir H. H. MacDougall on the 21st, on his way to Jed- 
burgh." . . . 

This last quiet hint, that the young lawyer might as 
well be at Makerstoun (the seat of a relation) when His 
Lordship breakfasted there, and of course swell the train 
of His Lordship's little procession into the county town, 
seems delightfully characteristic. I think I hear Sir 
Walter himself lecturing me, when in the same sort of 
situation, thirty years afterwards. He declined, as one 
of the following letters will show, the opportunity of 
making his first appearance on this occasion at Jedburgh. 
He was present, indeed, at the Court during the assizes, 
but "durst not venture." His accounts to "William 
Clerk of his vacation amusements, and more particularly 
of his second excursion to Northumberland, will, I am 
sure, interest every reader : — 


BosBBAUx, 10th September, 1792. 

Dear William, — Taking the advantage of a very 
indifferent day, which is likely to float away a good deal 
of corn, and of my father's leaving this place, who will 
take charge of this scroll, I sit down to answer your 
favor. I find you have been, like myself, taking advan- 
tage of the good weather to look around you a little, and 
congratulate you upon the pleasure you must have re- 
ceived from your jaunt with Mr. Russell. ^ I apprehend, 
though you are silent on the subject, that your conversa- 
tion was enlivened by many curious disquisitions of the 

1 Mr. Euasell, snigeon, afterwards FrofesaoT of Clinical Surgery at 


nature of undulating exhalations, I should have bowed 
before the venerable grove of oaks at Hamilton with as 
much respect as if I had been a Druid about to gather 
the sacred mistletoe. I should hardly have suspected 
your host Sir William ^ of having been the occasion of 
the scandal brought upon the library and Mr. Gibb ^ by 
the introduction of the Cabinet des Fees, of which I have 
a volume or two here. I am happy to think there is an 
admirer of snug things in the administration of the 
library. Poor Linton's^ misfortune, though I cannot 
say it surprises, yet heartily grieves me. I have no 
doubt he will have many advisers and animadverters 
upon the naughtiness of his ways, whose admonitions will 
be forgot upon the next opportunity. 

I am lounging about the country here, to speak sin- 
cerely, as idle as the day is long. Two old companions 
of mine, brothers of Mr. Walker of Wooden, having 
come to this country, we have renewed a great intimacy. 
As they live directly upon the opposite bank of the river, 
we have signals agreed upon by which we concert a plan 
of operations for the day. They are both officers, and 
very intelligent young fellows, and what is of some con- 
sequence, have a brace of fine greyhounds. Yesterday 
forenoon we killed seven hares, so you may see how 
plenty the game is with us. I have turned a keen duck- 
shooter, though my success is not very great ; and when 
wading through the mosses upon this errand, accoutred 
with the long gun, a jacket, mosquito trousers, and a 
rough cap, I might well pass for one of my redoubted 

1 Sir William MUler (Lord Glenlee). 

2 Mr. Gibb was the Librarian of the Faculty of Advocates. 

* Clerk, Abercromby, Scott, Fergnison, and others, had occasional boat- 
ing excursions from Leith to Inehcolm, Inchkeith, etc. On one of these 
their boat was neared by a Newhaven one — Ferguson, at the moment, 
was standing up talking ; one of the Newhaven fishermen, taking him for 
a brother of his own craft, bawled out, " Linton, you lang bitch, is that 
you ? " From that day Adam Ferguson's cognomen among his friends of 
JTie Club was Linton. 

172 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 21 

moss-trooper progenitors, Walter Fire-the-Braes,^ or 
rather Willie wi' the Bolt-Foot. 

For ahout-doors' amusement, I have constructed a seat 
in a large tree which spreads its branches horizontally 
over the Tweed. This is a favorite situation of mine for 
reading, especially in a day like this, when the west wind 
rocks the branches on which I am perched, and the river 
rolls its waves below me of a turbid blood color. I have, 
moreover, cut an embrasure, through which I can fire 
upon the gulls, herons, and cormorants, as they fly scream- 
ing past my nest. To crown the whole, I have carved an 
inscription upon it in the ancient Eoman taste. I believe 
I shall hardly return into town, barring accidents, sooner 
than the middle of next month, perhaps not till Novem- 
ber. Next week, weather permitting, is destined for a 
Northumberland expedition, in which I shall visit some 
parts of that country which I have not yet seen, particu- 
larly about Hexham. Some days ago I had nearly met 
with a worse accident than the tramp I took at Moorf oot ; ^ 
for having bewildered myself among the Cheviot hills, it 
was nearly nightfall before I got to the village of How- 
nam, and the passes with which I was acquainted. You 
do not speak of being in Perthshire this season, though 
I suppose you intend it. I suppose we, that is, nous 
autre&^ are at present completely dispersed. 

Compliments to all who are in town, and best respects 
to your own family, both in Prince's Street and at 
Eldin. —r Believe me ever most sincerely yours, 

Walter Scott. 

1 Walter Scott of Synton (elder brother of Bolt-Foot, the first Baron of 
Harden) yias. thus designated. He greatly distinguished himself in the 
battle of Melrose, A. D. 1626. 

^ This allndes to being lost in a fishing ezcnrsion. 

' The companions of The Club. 



BosEBANK, 30th September, 1792. 
Deab William, — I suppose this will find you flour- 
ishing like a green bay-tree on the mountains of Perth- 
shire, and in full enjoyment of all the pleasures of the 
country. All that I envy you is the noctea ccenceque 
deum, which, I take it for granted, you three merry men 
will be spending together, while I am poring over Bar- 
tholine in the long evenings, solitary enough; for, as for 
the lobsters, as you call them, I am separated from them 
by the Tweed, which precludes evening meetings, unless 
in fine weather and full moons. I have had an expedi- 
tion through Hexham and the higher parts of Northum- 
berland, which would have delighted the very cockles of 
your heart, not so much on account of the beautiful ro- 
mantic appearance of the country, though that would 
have charmed you also, as because you would have seen 
more Boman inscriptions built into gate-posts, barns, 
etc., than perhaps are to be found in any other part of 
Britain. These have been all dug up from the neighbor- 
ing Boman wall, which is still in many places very entire, 
and gives a stupendous idea of the perseverance of its 
founders, who carried such an erection from sea to sea, 
over rooks, mountains, rivers, and morasses. There are 
several lakes among the mountains above Hexham, well 
worth going many miles to see, though their fame is 
eclipsed by their neighborhood to those of Cumberland. 
They are surrounded by old towers and castles, in situa- 
tions the most savagely romantic; what would I have 
given to have been able to take effect-pieces from some 
of them I Upon the Tyne, about Hexham, the country 
has a different aspect, presenting much of the beautiful, 
though less of the sublime. I was particularly charmed 
with the situation of Beaufront, a house belonging to a 
mad sort of genius, whom, I am sure, I have told you 
some stories about. He used to call himself the Noble 

174 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 21 

Errington, but of late has assumed the title of Duke of 
Hexham. Hard by the town is the field of battle where 
the forces of Queen Margaret were defeated by those of 
the House of York, a blow which the Red Rose never 
recovered during the civil wars. The spot where the 
Duke of Somerset and the northern nobility of the Lan- 
castrian faction were executed after the battle is still 
called Dukesfield. The inhabitants of this country speak 
an odd dialect of the Saxon, approaching nearly that of 
Chaucer, and have retained some customs peculiar to 
themselves. They are the descendants of the ancient 
Danes, chased into the fastnesses of Northumberland by 
the severity of William the Conqueror. Their ignorance 
is surprising to a Scotchman. It is common for the 
traders in cattle, which business is carried on to a great 
extent, to carry all letters received in course of trade to 
the parish church, where the clerk reads them aloud after 
service, and answers them according to circumstances. 

We intended to visit the lakes in Cumberland, but our 
jaunt was cut short by the bad weather. I went to the 
circuit at Jedburgh, to make my bow to Lord J. Clerk, 
and might have had employment, but durst not venture. 
Nine of the Dunse rioters were condemned to banish- 
ment, but the ferment continues violent in the Merse. 
Kelso races afforded little sport — Wishaw ^ lost a horse 
which cost him £500, and foundered irrecoverably on 
the course. At another time I shall quote George Bu- 
chanan's adage of "a fool and his money," but at present 
labor under a similar misfortune; my Galloway having 
yesterday thought proper (N. B., without a rider) to leap 
over a gate, and being lamed for the present. This is 
not his first favx-pas, for he jumped into a water with 
me on his back when in Northumberland, to the imminent 
danger of my life. He is, therefore, to be sold (when 
recovered), and another purchased. This accident has 

^ Waiiam Hamilton of Wishaw, — who afterwards established his claim 
to the peerage of Belhaven. 


occasioned you the trouble of reading so long an epistle, 
the day being Sunday, and my uncle, the captain, busily 
engaged with your father's naval tactics, is too seriously 
employed to be an agreeable companion. Apropos (des 
bottes) — I am sincerely sorry to hear that James is still 
unemployed, but have no doubt a time will come round 
when his talents will have an opportunity of being dis- 
played to his advantage. I have no prospect of seeing 
my cKhre adorable till winter, if then. As for you, I pity 
you not, seeing as how you have so good a succedaneum 
in M. G. ; and, on the contrary, hope, not only that 
Edmonstone may roast you, but that Cupid may again 
(as eni^fry you on the gridiron of jealousy for your in- 
fidelity. Compliments to our right trusty and well- 
beloved Linton and Jean Jacques.^ If you write, which, 
by the way, I hardly have the conscience to expect, direct 
to my father's care, who will forward your letter. I 
have quite given up duck-shooting for the season, the 
birds being too old, and the mosses too deep and cold. 
I have no reason to boast of my experience or success in 
the sport, and for my own part, should fire at any dis- 
tance under eighty or even ninety paces, though above 
forty-five I would reckon it a coup dtaesp&ri, and as the 
bird is beyond measure shy, you may be sure I was not 
very bloody. Believe me, deferring, as usual, our dis- 
pute till another opportunity, always sincerely yours, 

Walter Scott. 
P. S. — I believe, if my pony does not soon recover, 
that misfortune, with the bad weather, may send me soon 
to town. 

It was within a few days after Scott's return from his 
excursion to Hexham, that, while attending the Michael- 
mas head-court, as an annual county-meeting is called, 
at Jedburgh, he was introduced, by an old companion, 
Charles Kerr of Abbotrule, to Mr. Eobert Shortreed, 

' John James Edmonstone. 

176 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. ii 

that gentleman's near relation, who spent the greater 
part of his life in the enjoyment of much respect as Sher- 
iff-substitute of Eoxburghshire. Scott had been express- 
ing his wish to visit the then wild and inaccessible dis- 
trict of Liddesdale, particularly with a view to examine 
the ruins of the famous castle of Hermitage, and to pick 
up some of the ancient riding ballads, said to be still 
preserved among the descendants of the moss-troopers, 
who had followed the banner of the Douglases, when 
lords of that grim and remote fastness. Mr. Shortreed 
had many connections in Liddesdale, and knew its passes 
well, and he was pointed out as the very guide the young 
advocate wanted. They started, accordingly, in a day 
or two afterwards, from Abbotrule ; and the laird meant 
to have been of the party; but "it was well for him," 
said Shortreed, "that he changed his mind — for he 
could never have done as we did." ^ 

During seven successive years Scott made a raid, as 
he called it, into Liddesdale, with Mr. Shortreed for his 
guide; exploring every rivulet to its source, and every 
ruined peel from foundation to battlement. At this time 
no wheeled carriage had ever been seen in the district — 
the first, indeed, that ever appeared there was a gig, 
driven by Scott himself for a part of his way, when on 
the last of these seven excursions. There was no inn or 
public-house of any kind in the whole valley; the travel- 
lers passed from the shepherd's hut to the minister's 
manse, and again from the cheerful hospitality of the 
manse to the rough and jolly welcome of the homestead ; 
gathering, wherever they went, songs and tunes, and 
occasionally more tangible relics of antiquity — even such 

^ I am obliged to Mr. John Elliot Shortreed, a son of Scott's early 
friend, for some memoranda of his father's conversations on this subject. 
These notes were -written in 1824 ; and I shall make several quotations 
from them. I had, however, many opportunities of hearing Mr. Short- 
reed's stories from his own lips, having often been under his hospitable 
roof in company with Sir Walter, who to the last always was his old 
friend's guest when business took him to Jedburgh. 

1792 LIDDESDALE 177 

"a rowth of auld nicknacketa " as Burns ascribes to Cap- 
tain Grose. To these rambles Scott owed much of the 
materials of his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border; and 
not less of that intimate acquaintance with the living 
manners of these unsophisticated regions, which consti- 
tutes the chief charm of one of the most charming of his 
prose works. But how soon he had any definite object 
before him in his researches seems very doubtful. "He 
was maldn' himseV a' the time," said Mr. Shortreed; 
"but he didna ken maybe what he was about till years 
had passed: at first he thought o' little, I dare say, but 
the queerness and the fun." 

"In those days," says the Memorandum before me, 
"advocates were not so plenty — at least about Liddes- 
dale;" and the worthy Sheriff -substitute goes on to de- 
scribe the sort of bustle, not unmixed with alarm, pro- 
duced at the first farmhouse they visited (Willie Elliot's 
at Millburnholm), when the honest man was informed 
of the quality of one of his guests. When they dis- 
mounted, accordingly, he received Mr. Scott with great 
ceremony, and insisted upon himself leading his horse to 
the stable. Shortreed accompanied WiUie, however, and 
the latter, after taking a deliberate peep at Scott, "out-by 
the edge of the door-cheek," whispered, "Weel, Robin, 
I say, de'il hae me if I's be a bit feared for him now ; 
he 's just a chield like ourselves, I think." Half-a-dozen 
dogs of all degrees had already gathered round "the 
advocate," and his way of returning their compliments 
had set Willie Elliot at once at his ease. 

According to Mr. Shortreed, this goodman of Mill- 
burnholm was the great original of Dandie Dinmont. 
As he seems to have been the first of these upland sheep- 
farmers that Scott ever visited, there can be little doubt 
that he sat for some parts of that inimitable portraiture; 
and it is certain that the James Davidson, who carried 
the name of Dandie to his grave with him, and whose 
thoroughbred deathbed scene is told in the Notes to Guy 

1 78 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 21 

Mannering, was first pointed out to Scott by Mr. Short- 
reed himself, several years after the novel had established 
the man's celebrity all over the Border; some accidental 
report about his terriers, and their odd names, having 
alone been turned to account in the original composition 
of the tale. But I have the best reason to believe that 
the kind and manly character of Dandie, the gentle and 
delicious one of his wife, and some at least of the most 
picturesque peculiarities of the menage at Charlieshope, 
were filled up from Scott's observation, years after this 
period, of a family, with one of whose members he had, 
through the best part of his life, a close and affectionate 
connection. To those who were familiar with him, I 
have perhaps already sufiiciently indicated the early home 
of his dear friend, William Laidlaw, among "the braes 
of Yarrow." 

They dined at Millburnholm, and after having lingered 
over Willie Elliot's punch-bowl, until, in Mr. Short- 
reed's phrase, they were "half-glowrin," mounted their 
steeds again, and proceeded to Dr. Elliot's at Cleughhead, 
where ("for," says my Memorandum, "folk were na very 
nice in those days ") the two travellers slept in one and 
the same bed — as, indeed, seems to have been the case 
with them throughout most of their excursions in this 
primitive district. This Dr. Elliot had already a large 
MS. collection of the ballads Scott was in quest of; and 
finding how much his guest admired his acquisitions, 
thenceforth exerted himself, for several years, with re- 
doubled diligence, in seeking out the living depositaries 
of such lore among the darker recesses of the mountains. 
"The Doctor," says Mr. Shortreed, "would have gane 
through fire and water for Sir Walter, when he ance 
kenned him." 

Next morning they seem to have ridden a long way, 
for the express purpose of visiting one "auld Thomas o' 
Twizzlehope," another Elliot, I suppose, who was cele- 
brated for his skill on the Border pipe, and in particular 

1792 LIDDESDALE 179 

for being in possession of the real lilt of Dick 0' the 
Cow. Before starting, that is, at six o'clock, the ballad- 
hunters had, "just to lay the stomach, a devilled duck 
or twae, and some London porter." Auld Thomas found 
them, nevertheless, well disposed for "breakfast" on 
their arrival at Twizzlehope; and this being over, he 
delighted them with one of the most hideous and un- 
earthly of all the specimens of "riding music," and, 
moreover, with considerable libations of whiskey-punch, 
manufactured in a certain wooden vessel, resembling a 
very small milk-pail, which he called "Wisdom," be- 
cause it "made " only a few spoonfuls of spirits — though 
he had the art of replenishing it so adroitly, that it had 
been celebrated for fifty years as more fatal to sobriety 
than any bowl in the parish. Having done due honor to 
"Wisdom," they again mounted, and proceeded over 
moss and moor to some other equally hospitable master 
of the pipe. "Eh me," says Shortreed, "sic an endless 
fund o' humor and drollery as he then had wi' him! 
Never ten yards but we were either laughing or roaring 
and singing. Wherever we stopped, how brawlie he 
suited himsel' to everybody! He aye did as the lave 
did; never made himsel' the great man, or took ony airs 
in the company. I 've seen him in a' moods in these 
jaunts, grave and gay, daft and serious, sober and drunk 
— (this, however, even in our wildest rambles, was but 
rare) — but, drunk or sober, he was aye the gentleman. 
He looked excessively heavy and stupid when he was/bw, 
but he was never out o' gude-humor." 

On reaching, one evening, some Charlieshope or other 
(I forget the name) among those wildernesses, they found 
a kindly reception as usual ; but to their agreeable sur- 
prise, after some days of hard living, a measured and 
orderly hospitality as respected liquor. Soon after sup- 
per, at which a bottle of elderberry wine alone had been 
produced, a young student of divinity, who happened to 
be in the house, was called upon to take the "big ha' 

i8o SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 21 

Bible," in the good old fashion of Burns's Saturday 
Night; and some progress had been already made in the 
service, when the goodman of the farm, whose "ten- 
dency," as Mr. Mitchell says, "was soporific," scandalized 
his wife and the dominie by starting suddenly from his 
knees, and rubbing his eyes, with a stentorian exclaipa- 
tion of "By , here 's the keg at last! " and in tum- 
bled, as he spake the word, a couple of sturdy herdsmen, 
whom, on hearing a day before of the advocate's ap- 
proaching visit, he had despatched to a certain smuggler's 
haunt, at some considerable distance, in quest of a supply 
of run brandy from the Solway Frith. The pious "ex- 
ercise " of the household was hopelessly interrupted. 
With a thousand apologies for his hitherto shabby enter- 
tainment, this jolly Elliot, or Armstrong, had the wel- 
come heg mounted on the table without a moment's delay, 
and gentle and simple, not forgetting the dominie, con- 
tinued carousing about it until daylight streamed in upon 
the party. Sir Walter Scott seldom failed, when I saw 
him in company with his Liddesdale companion, to mimic 
with infinite humor the sudden outburst of his old host, 
on hearing the clatter of horses' feet, which he knew 
to indicate the arrival of the keg — the consternation of 
the dame — and the rueful despair with which the young 
clergyman closed the book. 

" It was in that same season, I think," says Mr. Shortreed, 
" that Sir Walter got from Dr. Elliot the large old border war- 
horn, which ye may still see hanging in the armory at Abbots- 
ford. How great he was when he was made master o' that ! 
I believe it had been found in Hermitage Castle — and one of 
the Doctor's servants had used it many a day as a grease-horn 
for his scythe, before they discovered its history. When cleaned 
out, it was never a hair the worse — the original chain, hoop, 
and mouth-piece of steel, were aU entire, just as you now see 
them. Sir Walter carried it home aU the way from Liddesdale 
to Jedburgh, slung about his neck like Johnny Gilpin's bottle, 
while I was entrusted with an ancient bridle-bit, which we had 
likewise picked up. 

1792 NOTE-BOOKS i8i 

' The feint o' pride — na pride had he . . . 
A lang kail-gully hung down by his side, 
And a great meikle nowt-hom to rout on had he,' 

and meikle and sair we routed on 't, and ' hotched and blew, 
wi' micht and main.' what pleasant days ! And then a' the 
nonsense we had cost us naething. We never put hand in 
pocket for a week on end. Toll-bars there were none — and 
indeed I think our haiU charges were a feed o' corn to our 
horses in iihe gangin' and comin' at Riccartoun mill." 

It is a pity that we have no letters of Scott's describ- 
ing this first raid into Liddesdale; but as he must have 
left Kelso for Edinburgh very soon after its conclusion, 
he probably chose to be the bearer of his own tidings. 
At any rate, the wonder perhaps is, not that we should 
have so few letters of this period, as that any have been . 
recovered. "I ascribe the preservation of my little hand- 
ful," says Mr. Clerk, "to a sort of instinctive prophetic 
sense of his future greatness." 

I have found, however, two note-books, inscribed 
"Walter Scott, 1792," containing a variety of scraps 
and hints which may help us to fill up our notion of his 
private studies during that year. He appears to have 
used them indiscriminately. We have now an extract 
from the author he happened to be reading ; now a mem- 
orandum of something that had struck him in conversa- 
tion; a fragment of an essay; transcripts of favorite 
poems; remarks on curious cases in the old records of 
the Justiciary Court; in short, a most miscellaneous col- 
lection, in which there is whatever might have been 
looked for, with perhaps the single exception of original 
verse. One of the books opens with: " Vegtarn's 
Kvitha, or The Descent of Odin, with the Latin of 
Thomas Bartholine, and the English poetical version of 
Mr. Gray; with some account of the death of Balder, 
both as narrated in the Edda, and as handed down to us 
by the Northern historians — Auctore Gualtero Scott." 
The Norse original and the two versions are then tran- 

1 82 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 21 

scribed; and the historical account appended, extending 
to seven closely written quarto pages, was, I doubt not, 
read before one or other of his debating societies. Next 
comes a page, headed "Pecuniary Distress of Charles 
the First," and containing a transcript of a receipt for 
some plate lent to the King in 1643. He then copies 
Langhome's Owen of Carron; the verses of Canute, on 
passing Ely; the lines to a cuckoo, given by Warton as 
the oldest specimen of English verse; a translation "by 
a gentleman in Devonshire," of the death-song of Regner 
Lodbrog; and the beautiful quatrain omitted in Gray's 
Elegy, — 

" There scattered oft, the earliest of the year," etc. 

After this we have an Italian canzonet, on the praises of 
blue eyes (which were much in favor at this time); sev- 
eral pages of etymologies from Ducange; some more of 
notes on the Morte Arthur; extracts from the books of 
Adjournal, about Dame Janet Beaton, the Lady of Brank- 
some of The Lay of the Last Minstrel, and her husband, 
"Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, called Wicked Wat;" 
other extracts about witches and fairies; various couplets 
from Hall's Satires; a passage from Albania; notes on 
the Second Sight, with extracts from Aubrey and Glan- 
ville; a "List of Ballads to be discovered or recovered; " 
extracts from Guerin de Montglave; and after many more 
similar entries, a table of the Maeso-Gothic, Anglo-Saxon 
and Eunic alphabets — with a fourth section, headed Ger- 
man, but left blank. But enough perhaps of this record. 
In November, 1792, Scott and Clerk began their regu- 
lar attendance at the Parliament House, and Scott, to 
use Mr. Clerk's words, "by and by crept into a tolerable 
share of such business as may be expected from a writer's 
connection." By this we are to understand that he was 
employed from time to time by his father, and probably 
a few other solicitors, in that dreary every-day task- 
work, chiefly of long written informations, and other 

1792 THE MOUNTAIN 183 

papers for the Court, on which young counsellors of the 
Scotch Bar were then expected to bestow a great deal of 
trouble for very scanty pecuniary remuneration, and with 
scarcely a chance of finding reserved for their hands any 
matter that could elicit the display of superior knowledge 
of understanding. He had also his part in the cases of 
persons suing in forma pauperis; but how little impor- 
tant those that came to his share were, and how slender 
was the impression they had left on his mind, we may 
gather from a note on Bedgauntlet, wherein he signifies 
his doubts whether he really had ever been engaged in 
what he has certainly made the cause celebre of I^oor 
Peter Peebles. 

But he soon became as famous for his powers of story- 
telling among the lawyers of the Outer-House, as he had 
been among the companions of his High School days. 
The place where these idlers mostly congregated was 
called, it seems, by a name which sufficiently marks the 
date — it was the Mountain. Here, as Koger North says 
of the Court of King's Bench in his early day, "there 
was more news than law; " — here hour after hour passed 
away, week after week, month after month, and year 
after year, in the interchange of light-hearted merriment 
among a circle of young men, more than one of whom, 
in after-times, attained the highest honors of the profes- 
sion. Among the most intimate of Scott's daily asso- 
ciates from this time, and during all his subsequent at- 
tendance at the Bar, were, besides various since-eminent 
persons that have been already named, the first legal an- 
tiquary of our time in Scotland, Mr. Thomas Thomson, 
and William Erskine, afterwards Lord Kinnedder. Mr. 
Clerk remembers complaining one morning on finding 
the group convulsed with laughter, that Duns Scotus had 
been forestalling him in a good story, which he had com- 
municated privately the day before — adding, moreover, 
that his friend had not only stolen, but disguised it. 
"Why," answered he, skilfully waiving the main charge, 

1 84 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 21 

"this is always the way with the Baronet. He is contin- 
ually saying that I change his stories, whereas in fact I 
only put a cocked hat on their heads, and stick a cane 
into their hands — to make them fit for going into com- 

The German class, of which we have an account in one 
of the Prefaces of 1830, was formed before the Christmas 
of 1792, and it included almost all these loungers of tTie 
Mountain. In the essay now referred to Scott traces 
the interest excited in Scotland on the subject of German 
literature to a paper read before the Royal Society of 
Edinburgh, on the 21st of April, 1788, by the author of 
The Man of Feeling. "The literary persons of Edin- 
burgh," he says, "were then first made aware of the ex- 
istence of works of genius in a language cognate with the 
English, and possessed of the same manly force of ex- 
pression; they learned at the same time that the taste 
which dictated the German compositions was of a kind as 
nearly allied to the English as their lang;uage : those who 
were from their youth accustomed to admire Shakespeare 
and Milton, became acquainted for the first time with a 
race of poets, who had the same lofty ambition to spurn 
the fiaming boundaries of the universe, and investigate 
the realms of Chaos and Old Night; and of dramatists, 
who, disclaiming the pedantry of the unities, sought, at 
the expense of occasional improbabilities and extrava- 
gance, to present life on the stage in its scenes of wildest 
contrast, and in all its boundless variety of character. 
. . . Their fictitious narratives, their ballad poetigr, and 
other branches of their literature, which are particularly 
apt to bear the stamp of the extravagant and the super- 
natural, began also to occupy the attention of the British 
literati. In Edinburgh, where the remarkable coinci- 
dence between the German language and the Lowland 
Scottish encouraged young men to approach this newly 
discovered spring of literature, a class was formed of six 
or seven intimate friends, who proposed to make them- 


selves acquainted with the German language. They 
were in the habit of being much together, and the time 
they spent in this new study was felt as a period of great 
amusement. One source of this diversion was the laziness 
of one of their number, the present author, who, averse 
to the necessary toil of grammar, and the rules, was in 
the practice of fighting his way to the knowledge of the 
German by his acquaintance with the Scottish and Anglo- 
Saxon dialects, and of course frequently committed blun- 
ders which were not lost on his more accurate and more 
studious companions." The teacher, Dr. Willich, a 
medical man, is then described as striving with little 
success to make his pupils sympathize in his own passion 
for the "sickly monotony" and "affected ecst&,sies" of 
Gessner's Death of Abel; and the young students, hav- 
ing at length acquired enough of the language for their 
respective purposes, as selecting for their private pur- 
suits, some the philosophical treatises of Kant, others the 
dramas of Schiller and Goethe. The chief, if not the 
only Kantist of the party, was, I believe, John Mac- 
farlan of Kirkton ; among those who turned zealously to 
the popular , belles-lettres of Germany were, with Scott, 
his most intimate friends of the period, William Clerk, 
William Erskine, and Thomas Thomson. 

These studies were much encouraged by the example, 
and assisted by the advice, of an accomplished person, 
considerably Scott's superior in standing, Alexander 
Fraser Tytler, afterwards a Judge of the Court of Session 
by the title of Lord Woodhouselee. His version of Schil- 
ler's Robbers was one of the earliest from the German 
theatre, and no doubt stimulated his young friend to his 
first experiments in the same walk. 

The contemporary familiars of those days almost all 
survive; but one, and afterwards the most intimate of 
them all, went before him; and I may therefore hazard 
in this place a few words on the influence which he exer- 
cised at this critical period on Scott's literary tastes and 

1 86 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 21 

studies. William Erskine was the son of an Episcopa- 
lian clergyman in Perthshire, of a good family, but far 
from wealthy. He had received his early education at 
Glasgow, where, while attending the college lectures, he 
was boarded under the roof of Andrew Macdonald, the 
author of Vimonda, who then officiated as minister to 
a small congregation of Episcopalian nonconformists. 
From this unfortunate but very ingenious man, Erskine 
had derived, in boyhood, a strong passion for old English 
literature, more especially the Elizabethan dramatists; 
which, however, he combined with a far livelier relish 
for the classics of antiquity than either Scott or his master 
ever possessed. From the beginning, accordingly, Scott 
had in Erskine a monitor who — entering most warmly 
into his taste for national lore — the life of the past — 
and the bold and picturesque style of the original English 
school — was constantly urging the advantages to be de- 
rived from combining with its varied and masculine 
breadth of delineation such attention to the minor graces 
of arrangement and diction as might conciliate the fas- 
tidiousness of modern taste. Deferring what I may have 
to say as to Erskine's general character and manners, 
until I shall have approached the period when I myself 
had the pleasure of sharing his acquaintance, I introduce 
the general bearing of his literary opinions thus early, 
because I conceive there is no doubt that his companion- 
ship was, even in those days, highly serviceable to Scott 
as a student of the German drama and romance. Di- 
rected, as he mainly was in the ultimate determination of 
his literary ambition, by the example of their great 
founders, he appears to have run at first no trivial hazard 
of adopting the extravagances, both of thought and lan- 
guage, which he found blended in their works with such 
a captivating display of genius, and genius employed on 
subjects so much in unison with the deepest of his own 
juvenile predilections. His friendly critic was just, as well 
as delicate; and unmerciful severity as to the mingled 

1793 CASE OF M'NAUGHT 187 

absurdities and vulgarities of German detail commanded 
deliberate attention from one who admired not less enthu- 
siastically than himself the genuine sublimity and pathos 
of his new favorites. I could, I believe, name one other 
at least among Scott's fellow-students of the same time, 
whose influence was combined in this matter with Er- 
skine's; but his was that which continued to be exerted 
the longest, and always in the same direction. That it 
was not accompanied with entire success, the readers of 
The Doom of Devorgoil, to say nothing of minor blem- 
ishes in far better works, must acknowledge. 

These German studies divided Scott's attention with 
the business of the courts of law, on which he was at least 
a regular attendant during the winter of 1792-93. 

In March, when the Court rose, he proceeded into 
Galloway, where he had not before been, in order to 
make himself acquainted with the persons and localities 
mixed up with the case of a certain Eev. Mr. M' Naught, 
minister of Girthon, whose trial, on charges of habitual 
drunkenness, singing of lewd and profane songs, dancing 
and toying at a penny- wedding with a "sweetie wife" 
(that is, an itinerant vender of gingerbread, etc.), and 
moreover of promoting irregular marriages as a justice 
of the peace, was about to take place before the General 
Assembly of the Kirk. 

As his "Case for M'Naught," dated May, 1793, is the 
first of his legal papers that I have discovered, and con- 
tains several characteristic enough turns, I make no apol- 
ogy for introducing a few extracts : — 

At the head of the first class of offences stands the extraor- 
dinary assertion, that, being a Minister of the Gospel, the re- 
spondent had illegally undertaken the office of a justice of peace. 
It is, the respondent believes, the first time that ever the under- 
taking an office of such extensive utility was stated as a crime ; 
for he humbly apprehends, that by conferring the office of a 
justice of the peace upon clergymen, their influence may, in the 
general case, be rendered more extensive among their parish- 

1 88 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 21 

ioners, and many trifling causes be settled by them, which might 
lead the litigants to enormous expenses, and become the subject 
of much contention before other courts. The duty being only 
occasional, and not daily, cannot be said to interfere with those 
of their function ; and their education, and presumed character, 
render them most proper for the office. It is indeed alleged 
that the Act 1584, chap. 133, excludes clergymen from acting 
under a commission of the peace. This Act, however, was 
passed at a time when it was of the highest importance to the 
Crown to wrench from the hands of the clergy the power of 
administering justice in civil cases, which had, from the igno- 
rance of the laity, been enjoyed by them almost exclusively. 
During the whole reign of James VI., as is well known to the 
Reverend Court, such a jealousy subsisted betwixt the Church 
and the State, that those who were at the head of the latter en- 
deavored, by every means in their power, to diminish the in- 
fluence of the former. At present, when these dissensions 
happily no longer subsist, the law, as far as regards the office 
of justice of the peace, appears to have fallen into disuse, and 
the respondent conceives that any minister is capable of acting 
in that, or any other judicial capacity, provided it is of such a 
nature as not to withdraw much of his time from what the stat- 
ute calls the comfort and edification of the flock committed to 
him. Further, the Act 1584 is virtually repealed by the statute 
6th Anne, c. 6, sect. 2, which makes the Scots Law on the subject 
of justices of the peace the same with that of England, where 
the office is publicly exercised by the clergy of all descriptions. 
. . . Another branch of the accusation against the defender 
as a justice of peace, is the ratification of irregular marriages. 
The defender must here also caU the attention of his reverend 
brethren and -judges to the expediency of his conduct. The 
girls were usually with child at the time the application was 
made to the defender. In this situation, the children born out 
of matrimony, though begot under promise of marriage, must 
have been thrown upon the parish, or perhaps murdered in in- 
fancy, had not the men been persuaded to consent to a solemn 
declaration of betrothment, or private marriage, emitted before 
the defender as a justice of peace. The defender himself, 
commiserating the situation of such women, often endeavored 
to persuade their seducers to do them justice ; and men fre- 

1793 CASE OF M'NAUGHT 189 

quently acquiesced in this sort of marriage, when they could by 
no means have been prevailed upon to go through the ceremonies 
of proclamation of banns, or the expense and trouble of a public 
■wedding. The declaration of a previous marriage was some- 
times literally true ; sometimes a fiction voluntarily emitted by 
the parties themselves, under the belief that it was the most 
safe way of constituting a private marriage de presenti. The 
defender had been induced, from the practice of other justices, 
to consider the receiving these declarations, whether true or 
false, as a part of his duty, which he could not decline, even had 
he been willing to do so. Finally, the defender must remind 
the Venerable Assembly that he acted upon these occasions as 
a justice of peace, which brings him back to the point from 
which he set out, namely, that the Reverend Court are utterly 
incompetent to take cognizance of his conduct in that character, 
which no sentence that they can pronounce could give or take 

The second grand division of the libel against the defender 
refers to his conduct as a clergyman and a Christian. He was 
charged in the libel with the most gross and vulgar behavior, 
with drunkenness, blasphemy, and impiety ; yet all the evidence 
which the appellants have been able to bring forward tends only 
to convict him of three acts of dnmkenness during the course 
of fourteen years : for even the Presbytery, severe as they have 
been, acquit him quoad ultra. But the attention of the Eever- 
end Court is earnestly entreated to the situation of the defender 
at the time, the circumstances which conduced to his impru- 
dence, and the share which some of those had in occasioning 
his guilt, who have since been most active in persecuting and 
distressing him on account of it. 

The defender 'must premise, by observing, that the crime of 
drunkenness consists not in a man's having been in that situa- 
tion twice or thrice in his life, but in the constant and habitual 
practice of the vice ; the distinction between ebrius and ebriosus 
being founded in common sense, and recognized by law. A 
thousand oases may be supposed, in which a man, without being 
aware of what he is about, may be insensibly led on to intoxi- 
cation, especially in a country where the vice is unfortunately 
so common, that upon some occasions a man may go to excess 
from a false sense of modesty, or a fear of disobliging his 

ipo SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 21 

entertainer. The defender will not deny, that after losing his 
senses upon the occasions, and in the nianner to be afterwards 
stated, he may have conunitted improprieties which fill him 
with sorrow and regret : but he hopes, that in case he shall be 
able to show circumstances which abridge and palliate the guilt 
of his imprudent excess, the Venerable Court will consider these 
improprieties as the effects of that excess only, and not as aris- 
ing from any radical vice in his temper or disposition. When 
a man is bereft of his judgment by the influence of wine, and 
commits any crime, he can only be said to be morally culpable, 
in proportion to the impropriety of the excess he has committed, 
and not in proportion to the magnitude of its evil consequences. 
In a legal view, indeed, a man must be held as answerable and 
punishable for such a crime, precisely as if he had been in a 
state of sobriety ; but his crime is, in a moral Ught, comprised 
in the origo mali, the drunkenness only. His senses being once 
gone, he is no more than a human machine, as insensible of 
misconduct, in speech and action, as a parrot or an automaton. 
This is more particularly the case with respect to indecorums, 
such as the defender is accused of ; for a man can no more be 
held a common swearer, or a habitual talker of obscenity, be- 
cause he has been guilty of using such expressions when intoxi- 
cated, than he can be termed an idiot, because, when intoxicated, 
he has spoken nonsense. If, therefore, the defender can exten- 
uate the guilt of his intoxication, he hopes that its consequences 
win be numbered rather among his misfortunes than faults ; 
and that his Reverend Brethren wUl consider him, while in that 
state, as acting from a mechanical impulse, and as incapable of 
distinguishing between right and wrong. For the scandal which 
his behavior may have occasioned, he feels the most heartfelt 
sorrow, and will submit with penitence and contrition to the 
severe rebuke which the Presbytery have decreed against him. 
But he cannot think that his imfortunate misdemeanor, cir- 
cumstanced as he was, merits a severer punishment. He can 
show that pains were at these times taken to lead him on, when 
bereft of his senses, to subjects which were likely to call forth 
improper or indecent expressions. The defender must further 
urge, that not being originally educated for the church, he may, 
before he assimied the sacred character, have occasionally per- 
mitted himself freedoms of expression which are reckoned less 

1793 CASE OF M'NAUGHT 191 

culpable among the laity. Thus he may, during that time, have 
learned the songs which he is accused of singing, though rather 
inconsistent with his clerical character. What, then, was more 
natural, than that, when thrown off his guard by the assumed 
conviviality and artful solicitations of those about him, former 
improper habits, though renounced during his thinking moments, 
might assume the reins pf his imagination, when his situation 
rendered him utterly insensible of their impropriety ? 

. . . The Venerable Court wiU now consider how far three 
instances of ebriety, and their consequences, should ruin at once 
the character and the peace of mind of the unfortunate defender, 
and reduce him, at his advanced time of Ufe, about sixty years, 
together with his- aged parent, to a state of beggary. He hopes 
his severe sufferings may be considered as some atonement for 
the improprieties of which he may have been guilty ; and that 
the Venerable Court will, in their judgment, remember mercy. 
In respect whereof, etc. 

Walter Scott. 

This argument (for which he received five guineas) was 
sustained by Scott in a speech of considerable length at 
the Bar of the Assembly. It was far the most important 
business in which any solicitor had as yet employed him, 
and The Clvh mustered strong in the gallery. He began 
in a low voice, but by degrees gathered more confidence ; 
and when it became necessary for him to analyze the evi- 
dence touching a certain penny-wedding, repeated some 
very coarse specimens of his client's alleged conversation, 
in a tone so bold and free, that he was called to order 
with great austerity by one of the leading members of 
the Venerable Court. This seemed to confuse him not 
a little; so when, by and by, he had to recite a stanza 
of one of M'Naught's convivial ditties, he breathed it 
out in a faint and hesitating style; whereupon, thinking 
he needed encouragement, the allies in the gallery as- 
tounded the Assembly by cordial shouts of hear I hear ! 
— encore I encore ! They were immediately turned out, 
and Scott got through the rest of his harangue very little 
to his own satisfaction. 

192 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 22 

He believed, in a word, that he had made a complete 
failure, and issued from the Court in a melancholy mood. 
At the door he found Adam Ferguson waiting to inform 
him that the brethren so unceremoniously extruded from 
the gallery had sought shelter in a neighboring tavern, 
where they hoped he would join them. He complied with 
the invitation, but seemed for a long while incapable of 
enjoying the merriment of his friends. "Come, Duns," 
cried the Baronet, — "cheer up, man, and fill another 
tumbler; here 'g ***** * going to give us The Tailor." 
— "Ah! " he answered, with a groan, "the tailor was a 
better man than me, sirs ; for he didna venture hen until 
he henned the way." A certain comical old song, which 
had, perhaps, been a favorite with the minister of 
Girthon — 

" The tailor he came here to sew, 
And weel he kenn'd the way o't," etc. 

was, however, sung and chorused; and the evening ended 
in the full jollity of High Jinks. 

Mr. M'Naught was deposed from the ministry, and his 
young advocate has written out at the end of the printed 
papers on the case two of the songs which had been al- 
leged in the evidence. They are both grossly indecent. 
It is to be observed, that the research he had made with 
a view to pleading this man's cause carried him, for the 
first, and I believe for the last time, into the scenery of 
his Guy Mannering; and I may add that several of the 
names of the minor characters of the novel (that of 
MGuffog, for example) appear in the list of witnesses 
for and against his client. 

If the preeeding autumn forms a remarkable point in 
Scott's history, as first introducing him to the manners 
of the wilder Border country, the summer which followed 
left traces of equal importance. He gave the greater 
part of it to an excursion which much extended his know- 
ledge of Highland scenery and character ; and in particu- 
lar furnished him with the richest stores, which he after- 


wards turned to account in one of the most beautiful of 
his great poems, and in several, including the first, of 
his prose romances. 

Accompanied by Adam Ferguson, he visited on this 
occasion some of the finest districts of Stirlingshire and 
Perthshire ; and not in the percursory manner of his more 
boyish expeditions, but taking up his residence for a 
week or tien days in succession at the family residences of 
several of his young allies of the Mountain, and from 
thence familiarizing himself at leisure with the country 
and the people round about. In this way he lingered 
some time at Tullibody, the seat of the father of Sir 
Balph Abercromby, and grandfather of his friend Mr. 
George Abercromby (now Lord Abercromby) ; and heard 
from the old gentleman's own lips his narrative of a 
journey which he had been obliged to make, shortly after 
he first settled in Stirlingshire, to the wild retreat of Eob 
Koy. The venerable laird told how he was received by 
the cateran "with much courtesy," in a cavern exactly 
"such as that of Bean Lean ; dined on coUops cut from 
some of his own cattle, which he recognized hanging by 
their heels from the rocky roof beyond ; and returned in 
all safety, after concluding a bargain of blackmail — in 
virtue of which annual payment Eob Koy guaranteed the 
future security of his herds against, not his own followers 
merely, but all freebooters whatever. Scott next visited 
his friend Edmonstone, at Newton, a beautiful seat close 
to the ruins of the once magnificent Castle of Doune, 
and heard another aged gentleman's vivid recollections 
of all that happened there when John Home, the author 
of Douglas, and other Hanoverian prisoners, escaped 
from the Highland garrison in 1745.^ Proceeding to- 
wards the sources of the Teith, he was received for the 
first time under a roof which, in subsequent years, he 
regularly revisited, that of another of his associates, Bu- 
chanan, the young Laird of Cambusmore. It was thus 
' Waverley, chap, zxxyiii. note. 

194 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 2a 

that the scenery of Loch Katrine came to be so associated 
with "the recollection of many a dear friend and merry 
expedition of former days," that to compose The Lady of 
the Lake was "a labor of love, and no less so to recall 
the manners and incidents introduced,"^ It was start- 
ing from the same house, when the poem itself bad made 
some progress, that he put to the test the practicability 
of riding from the banks of Loch Vennachar to the Cas- 
tle of Stirling within the brief space which he had as- 
signed to Fitz-James's Grey Bayard, after the duel with 
Roderick Dhu; and the principal landmarks in the de- 
scription of that fiery progress are so many hospitable 
mansions, all familiar to him at the same period — Blair- 
drummond, the residence of Lord Kaimes; Ochtertyre, 
that of John Eamsay, the scholar and antiquary (now 
best remembered for his kind and sagacious advice to 
Burns); and "the lofty brow of ancient Kier," the splen- 
did seat of the chief family of the name of Stirling ; from 
which, to say nothing of remoter objects, the prospect 
has, on one hand, the rock of "Snowdon," and in front 
the field of Bannockburn. 

Another resting-place was Craighall, in Perthshire, 
the seat of the Battrays, a family related to Mr. Clerk, 
who accompanied him. From the position of this strik- 
ing place, as Mr. Clerk at once perceived, and as the 
author afterwards confessed to him, that of the Tully- 
Veolan was very faithfully copied ; though in the descrip- 
tion of the house itself, and its gardens, many features 
were adopted from Bruntsfield and Eavelston.^ Mr. 
Clerk has told me that he went through the first chapters 
of Waverley without more than a vague suspicion of the 
new novelist; but that when he read the arrival at TuUy- 
Veolan, his suspicion was at once converted into cer- 
tainty, and he handed the book to a common friend of 
his and the author's, saying, "This is Scott's — -and I'll 

1 Introduction to The Lady of the Lake, 1830. 
' Waverley, chap. viii. 

1793 MEIGLE 195 

lay a bet you '11 find such and such things in the next 
chapter." I hope Mr. Clerk will forgive me for men- 
tioning the particular circumstance that first flashed the 
conviction on his mind. In the course of a ride from 
Craighall they had both become considerably fagged and 
heated, and Clerk, seeing the smoke of a clachan a little 
way before them, ejaculated — "How agreeable if we 
should here fall in with one of those signposts where a 
red lion predominates over a punch -bowl! " The phrase 
happened to tickle Scott's fancy — he often introduced it 
on similar occasions afterwards — and at the distance of 
twenty years Mr. Clerk was at no loss to recognize an 
old acquaintance in the "huge bear" which "predomi- 
nates" over the stone basin in the courtyard of Baron 

I believe the longest stay he made this autumn was at 
Meigle in Forfarshire, the seat of Patrick Murray of 
Simprim, a gentleman whose enthusiastic passion for an- 
tiquities, and especially military antiquities, had pecu- 
liarly endeared him both to Scott and Clerk. Here 
Adam Ferguson, too, was of the party; and I have 
often heard them each and all dwell on the thousand 
scenes of adventure and merriment which diversified that 
visit. In the village churchyard, close beneath Mr. Mur- 
ray's gardens, tradition still points out the tomb of Queen 
Gruenever; and the whole district abounds in objects of 
historical interest. Amidst them they spent their wan- 
dering days, while their evenings passed in the joyous 
festivity of a wealthy young bachelor's establishment, or 
sometimes under the roofs of neighbors less refined than 
their host, the Balmawhapples of the Braes of Angus. 
From Meigle they made a trip to Dunnottar Castle, the 
ruins of the huge old fortress of the Earls Marischall, 
and it was in the churchyard of that place that Scott then 
saw for the first and last time Robert Paterson, the living 
Old Mortality. He and Mr. Walker, the minister of 
the parish, found the poor man refreshing the epitaphs 

196 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 22 

on the tombs of certain Cameronians who had fallen 
under the oppressions of James the Second's brief insan- 
ity. Being invited into the manse after dinner to take 
a glass of whiskey-punch, "to which he was supposed to 
have no objections," he joined the minister's party ac- 
cordingly; but "he was in bad humor," says Scott, "and, 
to use his own phrase, had no freedom for conversation. 
His spirit had been sorely vexed by hearing, in a certain 
Aberdonian kirk, the psalmody directed by a pitch-pipe 
or some similar instrument, which was to Old Mortality 
the abomination of abominations." 

It was also while he had his headquarters at Meigle at 
this time that Scott visited for the first time Glammis, 
the residence of the Earls of Strathmore, by far the no- 
blest specimen of the real feudal castle, entire and per- 
fect, that had as yet come under his inspection. What 
its aspect was when he first saw it, and how grievously 
he lamented the change it had undergone when he revis- 
ited it some years afterwards, he has recorded in one of 
the most striking passages that I think ever came from 
his pen. Commenting, in his Essay on Landscape Gar- 
dening (1828), on the proper domestic ornaments of the 
Castle Pleasaunce, he has this beautiful burst of lamen- 
tation over the barbarous innovations of the Capability 
men : — " Down went many a trophy of old magnificence j 
courtyard, ornamented enclosure, fosse, avenue, barbican, 
and every external muniment of battled wall and flank- 
ing tower, out of the midst of which the ancient dome, 
rising high above all its characteristic accompaniments,- 
and seemingly girt round by its appropriate defences, 
which again circled each other in their different grada- 
tions, looked, as it should, the queen and mistress of the 
surrounding country. It was thus that the huge old 
tower of Glammis, ' whose birth tradition notes not,' 
once showed its lordly head above seven circles (if I re- 
member aright) of defensive boundaries, through which 
the friendly guest was admitted, and at each of which a 

1793 GLAMMIS 197 

suspicious person was unquestionably put to his answer. 
A disciple of Kent had the cruelty to render this splendid 
old mansion (the more modern part -of which was the 
work of Inigo Jones) more parkish, as he was pleased to 
call it; to raze all those exterior defences, and bring his 
mean and paltry gravel-walk up to the very door from 
which, deluded by the name, one might have imagined 
Lady Macbeth (with the form and features of Siddons) 
issuing forth to receive King Duncan. It is thirty years 
and upwards since I have seen Glammis, but I have not 
yet forgotten or forgiven the atrocity which, under pre- 
tence of improvement, deprived that lordly place of its 
appropriate accompaniments, 

' Leaving an ancient dome and towers like these 
Beggar'd and outraged.' " ^ 

The night he spent at the yet unprofaned Glammis in 
1793 was, as he elsewhere says, one of the "two periods 
distant from each other" at which he could recollect 
experiencing " that degree' of superstitious awe which his 
countrymen call eerie." 

" The heavy pile," he writes, "contains much in its appearance, 
and in the traditions connected with it, impressive to the imag- 
ination. It was the scene of the murder of a Scottish King of 
great antiquity — not indeed the gracious Duncan, with whom 
the name naturally associates itself, but Malcolm II. It con- 
tains also a curious monument of the peril of feudal times, being 
a secret chamber, the entrance of which, by the law or custom 
of the family, must only be known to three persons at once, 
namely, the Earl of Strathmore, his heir-apparent, and any 
third person whom they may take into their confidence. The 
extreme antiquity of the building is vouched by the thickness 
of the walls, and the wild straggling arrangement of the ac- 
commodation within doors. As the late Earl seldom resided at 
Glammis, it was when I was there but half furnished, and that 
with movables of great antiquity, which, with the pieces of 
chivalric armor hanging on the walls, greatly contributed to the 
general effect of the whole. After a very hospitable reception 
^ Wordsworth's Sonnet on Keidpath Castle. 

198 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 22 

from the late Peter Proctor, seneschal of the castle, I was con- 
ducted to my apartment in a distant part of the building. I 
must own, that when -I heard door after door shut, after my con- 
ductor had retired, I began to consider myself as too far from 
the living, and somewhat too near the dead. We had passed 
through what is called the King's Boom, a vaulted apartment,, 
garnished with stags' antlers and other trophies of the chase, 
and said by tradition to be the spot of Malcolm's murder, and 
I had an idea of the vicinity of the castle chapel. In spite of 
the truth of history, the whole night scene in Macbeth's Castle 
rushed at once upon me, and struck my mind more forcibly 
than even when I have seen its terrors represented by John 
Kemble and his inimitable sister. In a word, I experienced 
sensations which, though not remarkable for timidity or super- 
stition, did not fail to affect me to the point of being disagree- 
able, while they were mingled at the same time with a strange 
and indescribable sort of pleasure, the recollection of which 
affords me gratification at this moment." ^ 

He alludes here to the hospitable reception which had 
preceded the mingled sensations of this eerie night ; but 
one of his notes on Waverley touches this not unimpor- 
tant part of the story more distinctly; for we are there 
informed that the silver hear of TuUy-Veolan, "the po- 
culum potatorium of the valiant baron," had its prototype 
at Glammis — a massive beaker of silver, double gilt, 
moulded into the form of a lion, the name and bearing of 
the Earls of Strathmore, and containing about an English 
pint of wine. "The author," he says, "ought perhaps to 
be ashamed of recording that he had the honor of swallow- 
ing the contents of the lion ; and the recollection of the 
feat suggested the story of the Bear of Bradwardine." 

From this pleasant tour, so rich in its results, Scott 
returned in time to attend the autumnal assizes at Jed- 
burgh, on which occasion he made his first appearance as 
counsel in a criminal court; and had the satisfaction of 
helping a veteran poacher and sheep-stealer to escape 
through some of the meshes of the law. " You 're a 
^ Letters on Bemonology and Witchcraft, p. 398. 


lucky scoundrel," Scott whispered to his client, when the 
verdict was pronounced. "I 'm just o' your mind," 
quoth the desperado, "and I'll send ye a maukin^ the 
morn, man." I am not sure whether it was at these as- 
sizes or the next in the same town, that he had less suc- 
cess in the case of a certain notorious housebreaker. The 
man, however, was well aware that no skill could have 
baffled the clear evidence against him, and was, after his 
fashion, grateful for such exertions as had been made in 
his behalf. He requested the young advocate to visit 
him once more before he left the place. Scott's curiosity 
induced him to accept this invitation, and his friend, as 
soon as they were alone together in the condetnned cell, 
said — "I am very sorry, sir, that I have no fee to offer 
you — so let me beg your acceptance of two bits of advice 
which may be useful perhaps when you come to have a 
house of your own. I am done with practice, you see, 
and here is my legacy. Never keep a large watchdog 
out of doors — we can always silence them cheaply — in- 
deed if it be a dog, 't is easier than whistling — but tie 
a little tight yelping terrier within ; and secondly, put no 
trust in nice, clever, gimcrack locks — the only thing 
that bothers us is a huge old heavy one, no matter how 
simple the construction, — and the ruder and rustier the 
key, so much the better for the housekeeper." I remem- 
ber hearing him tell this story some thirty years after at 
a Judges' dinner at Jedburgh, and he summed it up with 
a rhyme — "Ay, ay, my lord," (I think he addressed 
his friend Lord Meadowbank) — 

" Yelping terrier, rusty key, 
Was Walter Scott's best Jeddart fee.'' 

At these, or perhaps the next assizes, he was also 
counsel in an appeal case touching a cow which his client 
had sold as sound, but which the court below (the sheriff) 
had pronounced to have what is called the cliers — a dis- 
ease analogous to glanders in a horse. In opening his 

' A hare. 

aoo SIR WALTER SCOTT mr. 10. 

case before Sir David Kae, Lord Eskgrove, Scott stoutly 
maintained the healthiness of the cow, who, as he said, 
had merely a cough. "Stop there," quoth the judge; 
"I have had plenty of healthy kye in my time, but I 
never heard of ane of them coughing. A coughin' cow ! 
— that will never do. Sustain the sheriff's judgment, 
and decern." 

A day or two after this, Scott and his old companion 
were again on their way into Liddesdale, and "just," 
says the Shortreed Memorandum, "as we were passing 
by Singdon, we saw a grand herd o' cattle a' feeding by 
the roadside, and a fine young bullock, the best in the 
whole lot, was in the midst of them, coughing lustily. 
' Ah,' said Scott, * what a pity for my client that old 
Eskgrove had not taken Singdon on his way to the town. 
That bonny creature would have saved us — 

" A Daniel come to judgment, yea a Daniel ; 
O wise young judge, how I do honor thee I " '" 


BosEBANK, near Kelso, September 13, 1798. 

Deak Mueeat, — I would have let fly an epistle at 
you long ere this, had I not known I should have some 
difficulty in hitting so active a traveller, who may in that 
respect be likened unto a bird of passage. Were you to 
follow the simile throughout, I might soon expect to see 
you winging your way to the southern climes, instead of 
remaining to wait the approach of winter in the colder 
regions of the north. Seriously, J have been in weekly 
hopes of hearing of your arrival in the Merse, and have 
been qualifying myself by constant excursions to be your 
Border Cicerone. 

As the facetious Linton will no doubt make one of 
your party, I have got by heart for his amusement a 
reasonable number of Border ballads, most of them a 
little longer than Chevy Chase, which I intend to throw 
in at intervals, just by way of securing my share in the 

1793 ROSEBANK 201 

conversation. As for you, as I know your picturesque 
turn, I can be in this country at no loss how to cater for 
your entertainment, especially if you would think of mov- 
ing before the fall of the leaf. I believe with respect to 
the real To Kalon, few villages can surpass that near 
which I am now writing; and as to your rivers, it is part 
of my creed that the Tweed and Teviot yield to none in 
the world, nor do I fear that even in your eyes, which 
have been feasted on classic ground, they will greatly 
sink in comparison with the Tiber or Po. Then for an- 
tiquities, it is true we have got no temples or heathenish 
fanes to show ; but if substantial old castles and ruined 
abbeys will serve in their stead, they are to be found in 
abundance. So much for Linton and you. As for Mr. 
Eobertson,! I don't know quite so well how to bribe him. 
We had indeed lately a party of strollers here, who might 
in some degree have entertained him, *. e., in case he 
felt no compassion for the horrid and tragical murders 
which they nightly committed, — but now, Alas, Sir I the 
players he gone, 

I am at present very uncertain as to my own motions, 
but I still hope to be northwards again before the com- 
mencement of the session, which (d^n it) is beginning 
to draw nigher than I could wish. I would esteem my- 
self greatly favored by a few lines informing me of your 
motions when they are settled; since visiting you, should 
I go north, or attending you if you come this way, are 
my two grand plans of amusement. 

What think you of our politics now? Had I been 
within reach of you, or any of the chosen, I suspect the 
taking of Valenciennes would have been sustained as a 
reason for examining the contents of t'other bottle, which 
has too often suffered for slighter pretences. I have 

1 Dr. Eobertson was tutor to the Laird of Simprim, and afterwards 
minister of Meigle — a man of great worth, and an excellent scholar. In 
his younger days he was fond of the theatre, and encouraged and directed 
Simprim, Grogg, Linton 4r Co. in their histrionic diversions. - (1839.) 

202 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. a a 

little doubt, however, that by the time we meet in glory 
(terrestrial glory, I mean) Dunkirk will be an equally 
good apology. Adieu, my good friend; remember me 
kindly to Mr. Robertson, to Linton, and to the Baronet. 
I understand both these last intend seeing you soon. I 
am very sincerely yours, Walter Scott. 

The winter of 1793-94 appears to have been passed 
like the preceding one : the German class resumed their 
sittings; Scott spoke in his debating club on the" ques- 
tions of Parliamentary Reform and the Inviolability of 
the Person of the First Magistrate, which the circum- 
stances of the time had invested with extraordinary in- 
terest, and in both of which he no doubt took the side 
adverse to the principles of the English, and the practice 
of the French Liberals. His love-affair continued on 
exactly the same footing as before ; — and for the rest, 
like the young heroes in Redgauntlet, he "swept the 
boards of the Parliament House with the skirts of his 
gown ; laughed, and made others laugh ; drank claret at 
Bayle's, Fortune's, and Walker's, and eat oysters in the 
Covenant Close." On his desk "the new novel most in 
repute lay snugly intrenched beneath Stair's Institute, or 
an open volume of Decisions; " and his dressing-table 
was littered with "old play -bills, letters respecting a 
meeting of the Faculty, Rules of the Speculative, Syl- 
labus of Lectures — all the miscellaneous contents of a 
young advocate's pocket, which contains everything but 
briefs and bank-notes." His professional occupation was 
still very slender; but he took a lively interest in the 
proceedings of the criminal court, and more especially in 
those arising out of the troubled state of the public feel- 
ing as to politics. 

In the spring of 1794 I find him writing to his friends 
in Roxburghshire with great exultation about the "good 
spirit " manifesting itself among the upper classes of the 
citizens of Edinburgh, and, above all, the organization of 


a regiment of volunteers, in which his brother Thomas, 
now a fine active young man, equally handsome and high- 
spirited, was enrolled as a grenadier, while, as he re- 
marks, his own "unfortunate infirmity" condemned him 
to be "a mere spectator of the drills," In the course of 
the same year, the plan of a corps of volunteer light 
horse was started ; and, if the recollection of Mr. Skene 
be accurate, the suggestion originally proceeded from 
Scott himself, who certainly had a principal share in its 
subsequent success. He writes to his uncle at Eose- 
bank, requesting him to be on the lookout for a "strong 
gelding, such as would suit a stalwart dragoon;" and 
intimating his intention to part with his collection of 
Scottish coins, rather than not be mounted to his mind. 
The corps, however, was not organized for some time; 
and in the mean while he had an opportunity of display- 
ing his zeal in a manner which Captain Scott by no 
means considered as so respectable. 

A party of Irish medical students began, towards the 
end of April, to make themselves remarkable in the 
Edinburgh Theatre, where they mustered in a particular 
corner of the pit, and lost no opportunity of insulting 
the Loyalists of the boxes, by calling for revolutionary 
tunes, applauding every speech that could bear a seditious 
meaning, and drowning the national anthem in howls and 
hootings. The young Tories of the Parliament House 
resented this license warmly, and after a succession of 
minor disturbances, the quarrel was put to the issue of a 
regular trial by combat. Scott was conspicuous among 
the juvenile advocates and solicitors who on this grand 
night assembled in front of the pit, armed with stout 
cudgels, and determined to have God save the King not 
only played without interruption, but sung in full chorus 
by both company and audience. The Irishmen were 
ready at the first note of the anthem. They rose, clapped 
on their hats, and brandished their shillelahs; a stern 
battle ensued, and after many a head had been cracked. 

204 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 22 

the Loyalists at length found themselves in possession of 
the field. In writing to Simprim a few days afterwards, 
Scott says — "You will be glad to hear that the affair of 
Saturday passed over without any worse consequence to 
the Loyalists than that five, including your friend and 
humble servant Colonel Grogg, have been bound over to 
the peace, and obliged to give bail for their good behav- 
ior, which, you may believe, was easily found. The 
said Colonel had no less than three broken heads laid to 
his charge by as many of the Democrats." AUuding to 
Simprim 's then recent appointment as Captain in the 
Perthshire Fencibles (Cavalry), he adds — "Among my 
own military (I mean mock-military) achievements, let 
me not fail to congratulate you and the country on the 
real character you have agreed to accept. Remember, 
in case of real action, I shall beg the honor of admission 
to your troop as a volunteer." 

One of the theatrical party. Sir Alexander Wood, 
whose notes lie before me, says — " Walter was certainly 
our Coryphaeus, and signalized himself splendidly in this 
desperate fray; and nothing used afterwards to afford 
him more delight than dramatizing its incidents. Some 
of the most efficient of our allies were persons previously 
unknown to him, and of several of these whom he had par- 
ticularly observed, he never lost sight afterwards. There 
were, I believe, cases in which they owed most valuable 
assistance in life to his recollection of the playhouse 
row." To this last part of Sir Alexander's testimony 
I can also add mine ; and I am sure my worthy friend. 
Mi-. Donald M'Lean, W. S., will gratefully confirm it. 
When that gentleman became candidate for some office 
in the Exchequer, about 1822 or 1823, and Sir Walter's 
interest was requested on his behalf, — "To be sure!" 
said he; "did not he sound the charge upon Paddy? 
Can I ever forget Donald's Sticks by G — t? " ^ 

^ According to a friendly critic, one of the Liberals exclaimed, as the 
TOW was thickening, " No Blows ! " — and Donald, suiting the action to the 
word, responded, " Plows by ! " — (1839.) 


On the 9th May, 1794, Charles Kerr of Abbotrule 
writes to him — "I was last night at Rosebank, and your 
uncle told me he had been giving you a very long and 
very sage lecture upon the occasion of these Edinburgh 
squabbles ; I am happy to hear they are now at an end. 
They were rather of the serious cast, and though you en- 
countered them with spirit and commendable resolution, 
I, with your uncle, should wish to see your abilities con- 
spicuous on another theatre." The same gentleman, in 
his next letter (June 3), congratulates Scott on having 
"seen hi& name in the newspaper" namely, as counsel for 
another Eoxburghshire laird, by designation Bedrule. 
Such, no doubt, was Abbotrule's "other theatre." 

Scott spent the long vacation of this year chiefly in 
Roxburghshire, but again visited Keir, Cambusmore, and 
others of his friends in Perthshire, and came to Edin- 
burgh, early in September, to be present at the trials of 
Watt and Downie, on a charge of high treason. Watt 
seems to have tendered his services to Government as a 
spy upon the Society of the Friends of the People in Edin- 
burgh, but ultimately, considering himself as underpaid, 
to have embraced, to their wildest extent, the schemes he 
had become acquainted with in the course of this worthy 
occupation; and he, and one Downie, a mechanic, were 
now arraigned as having taken a prominent part in the 
organizing of a plot for a general rising in Edinburgh, 
to seize the Castle, the Bank, the persons of the Judges, 
and proclaim a Provisional Republican Government ; all 
which was supposed to have been arranged in concert 
with the Hardies, Thelwalls, Holcrofts, and so forth, 
who were a few weeks later brought to trial in London 
for an alleged conspiracy to "summon delegates to a 
National Convention, with a view to subvert the Govern- 
ment, and levy war upon the King." The English pris- 
oners were acquitted, but Watt and Downie were not so 
fortunate. Scott writes as follows to his aunt, Miss Chris- 
tian Rutherford, then at Ashestiel, in Selkirkshire : — 

2o6 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 23 

Advocates' Librabt, 5tb September, 1794. 
My dear Miss Christy will perceive, from the date of 
this epistle, that I have accomplished my purpose of 
coming to town to be present at the trial of the Edin- 
burgh traitors. I arrived here on Monday evening from 
Kelso, and was present at Watt's trial on Wednesday, 
which displayed to the public the most atrocious and de- 
liberate plan of villainy which has occurred, perhaps, in 
the annals of Great Britain. I refer you for particulars 
to the papers, and shall only add, that the equivocations 
and perjury of the witnesses (most of them being accom- 
plices in what they called the great plan") set the abilities 
of Mr. Anstruther, the King's counsel, in the most strik- 
ing point of view. The patience and temper with which 
he tried them on every side, and screwed out of them the 
evidence they were so anxious to conceal, showed much 
knowledge of human nature; and the art with which he 
arranged the information he received, made the trial, 
upon the whole, the most interesting I ever was present 
at. Downie's trial is just now going forwards over my 
head; but as the evidence is just the same as formerly 
brought against Watt, is not so interesting. You will 
easily believe that on Wednesday my curiosity was too 
much excited to retire at an early hour, and, indeed, I sat 
in the Court from seven in the morning till two the next 
morning; but as I had provided myself with some cold 
meat and a bottle of wine, I contrived to support the 
fatigue pretty well. It strikes me, upon the whole, that 
the plan of these miscreants might, from its very desper- 
ate and improbable nature, have had no small chance of 
succeeding, at least as far as concerned cutting off the sol- 
diers, and obtaining possession of the banks, besides shed- 
ding the blood of the most distinguished inhabitants. 
There, I think, the evil must have stopped, unless they 
had further support than has yet appeared. Stocks was the 
prime mover of the whole, and the person who supplied 
the money ; and our theatrical disturbances are found to 


have formed one link of the chain. So, I have no doubt, 
Messrs. Stooks, Burk, etc., would have found out a new 
way of paying old debts. The people are perfectly quies- 
cent upon this grand occasion, and seem to interest them- 
selves very little in the fate of their soi-disant friends. 
The Edinburgh volunteers make a respectable and for- 
midable appearance already. They are exercised four 
hours almost every day, with all the rigor of military 
discipline. The grenadier company consists entirely of 
men above six feet. So much for public news. 

As to home intelligence — you know that my mother 
and Anne had projected a jaunt to Inverleithen ; fate, 
however, had destined otherwise. The intended day of 
departure was ushered in by a most complete deluge, to 
which, and the consequent disappointment, our proposed 
travellers did not submit with that Christian meekness 
which might have beseemed. In short, both within and 
without doors, it was a devil of a day. The second was 
like unto it. The third day came a post, a killing post,^ 
and in the shape of a letter from this fountain of health, 
informed us no lodgings were to be had there; so, what- 
ever be its virtues, or the grandeur attending a journey 
to its streams, we might as well have proposed to visit 
the river Jordan, or the walls of Jericho. Not so our 
heroic John; he has been arrived here for some time 
(much the same as when he went away), and has formed 
the desperate resolution of riding out with me to Kelso 
to-morrow morning. I have stayed a day longer, waiting 
for the arrival of a pair of new boots and buckskin etes., 
in which the soldier is to be equipt. I ventured to hint 
the convenience of a roll of diaculum plaister, and a box 
of the most approved horseman-salve, in which recom- 
mendation our doctor 2 warmly joined. His impatience 
for the journey has been somewhat cooled by some incli- 

1 " The third day comes a f lost, a killing frost." 

King Henry VIII. 
2 Dr. Rutherford. 

2o8 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 23 

nation yesterday displayed by his charger (a pony be- 
longing to Anne) to lay his warlike rider in the dust — 
a purpose he had nearly effected. He next mounted 
Queen Mab, who treated him with little more complai- 
sance, and, in carters' phrase, would neither hap nor 
wynd till she got rid of him. Seriously, however, if 
Jack has not returned covered with laurels, a crop which 
the Kock ^ no longer produces, he has brought back all 
his own good-nature, and a manner considerably im- 
proved, so that he is at times very agreeable company. 
Best love to Miss K., Jean, and Anne (I hope they are 
improved at the battledore), and the boys, not forgetting 
my friend Archy, though least not last in my remem- 
brance. Best compliments to the Colonel.^ I shall 
remember with pleasure Ashestiel hospitality, and not 
without a desire to put it to the proof next year. Adieu, 
ma chere amie. When you write, direct to Rosebank, 
and I shall be a good boy, and write you another sheet 
of nonsense soon. All friends here well. Ever yours 
affectionately, Walter Scott. 

The letter, of which the following is an extract, must 
have been written in October or November — Scott hav- 
ing been in Liddesdale, and again in Perthshire, during 
the interval. It is worth quoting for the little domestic 
allusions with which it concludes, and which every one 
who has witnessed the discipline of a Presbyterian family 
of the old school, at the time of preparation for the Gom- 
rmmion, will perfectly understand. Scott's father, though 
on particular occasions he could permit himself, like 
Saunders Fairford, to play the part of a good Amphi- 
tryon, was habitually ascetic in his habits. I have heard 
his son tell, that it was common with him, if any one 
observed that the soup was good, to taste it again, and 

^ Captain Jolin Scott had been for some time with his regiment at 
' Colonel Buasell of Ashestiel, married to a sister of Scott's mother. 


say, — "Yes, it is too good, bairns," and dash a tumbler 
of cold water into Ms plate. It is easy, therefore, to 
imagine with what rigidity he must have enforced the 
ultra-Catholic severities which marked, in those days, the 
yearly or half-yearly retreat of the descendants of John 


Previous to my ramble, I stayed a single day in town, 
to witness the exit of the ci-devant Jacobin, Mr. Watt. 
It was a very solemn scene, but the pusillanimity of the 
unfortimate victim was astonishing, considering the bold- 
ness of his nefarious plans. It is matter of general re- 
gret that his associate Downie should have received a 
reprieve, which, I understand, is now prolonged for a 
second month, I suppose to wait the issue of the London 
trials. Our volunteers are now completely embodied, 
and, notwithstanding the heaviness of their dress, have 
a martial and striking appearance. Their accuracy in 
firing and manoeuvring excites the surprise of military 
gentlemen, who are the best judges of their merit in that 
way. Tom is very proud of the grenadier company, to 
which he belongs, which has indisputably carried off the 
palm upon aU public occasions. And now, give me leave 
to ask you whether the approaching winter does not re- 
mind you of your snug parlor in George's Street? Do 
you not feel a little uncomfortable when you see 

" how bleak and bare 
He wanders o'er the heights of Yair ? " 

Amidst all this regard for your accommodation, don't 
suppose I am devoid of a little self-interest when I press 
your speedy return to Auld Reekie, for I am really tiring 
excessively to see the said parlor again inhabited. Be- 
sides that, I want the assistance of your eloquence to 
convince my honored father that Nature did not mean me 
either for a vagabond or travelling merchant, when she 


honored me with the wandering propensity lately so con- 
spicuously displayed. I saw DT yesterday, who is well. 
I did not choose to intrude upon the little lady, this being 
sermon week; for the same reason we are looking very 
religious and very sour at home. However, it is with 
some folk selon les regies, that in proportion as they are 
pure themselves, they are entitled to render uncomfort- 
able those whom they consider as less perfect. Best love 
to Miss K., cousins and friends in general, and believe 
me ever most sincerely yours, Walter Scott. 

In July, 1795, a young lad, James Niven by name, 
who had served for some time with excellent character on 
board a ship of war, and been discharged in consequence 
of a wound which disabled one of his hands, had the mis- 
foirtune, in firing off a toy cannon in one of the narrow 
wynds of Edinburgh, to kill on the spot David Knox, 
one of the attendants of the Court of Session; a button, 
or some other hard substance, having been accidentally 
inserted with his cartridge. Scott was one of his counsel 
when he was arraigned for murder, and had occasion to 
draw up a written argument or information for the pris- 
oner, from which I shall make a short quotation. Con- 
sidered as a whole, the production seems both crude and 
clumsy, but the following passages have, I think, several 
traces of the style of thought and language which he 
afterwards made familiar to the world : — 

" Murder," he writes, " or the premeditated slaughter of a 
citizen, is a crime of so deep and scarlet a dye, that there is 
scarce a nation to be found in which it has not, from the earliest 
period, been deemed worthy of a capital punishment. ' He 
who sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed,' is 
a general maxim which has received the assent of all times and 
comitries. But it is equally certain that even the rude legisla- 
tors of former days soon perceived that the death of one man 
may be occasioned by another, without the slayer himself being 
the proper object of the lex talionis. Such an accident may 

1795 LAW PAPER 211 

happen either by the carelessness of the killer, or through that 
excess and vehemence of passion to which humanity is incident. 
In either case, though blamable, he ought not to be confounded 
with the cool and deliberate assassin, and the species of crimi- 
nality attaching itself to those acts has been distinguished by the 
term dolus, in opposition to the milder term culpa. Again, 
there may be a third species of homicide, in which the perpe- 
trator being the innocent and unfortunate cause of casual mis- 
fortune, becomes rather an object of compassion than punish- 

" Admitting there may have been a certain degree of culpa- 
bility in the panel's conduct, still there is one circumstance 
which pleads strongly in his favor, so as to preclude aU pre- 
sumption of dole. This is the frequent practice, whether proper 
or improper, of using this amusement in the streets. It is a 
matter of public notoriety, that boys of all ages and descriptions 
are, or at least till the late very proper proclamation of the 
magistrates were, to be seen every evening in almost every 
corner of this city, amusing themselves with fire-arms and small 
cannons, and that without beilig checked or interfered with. 
When the panel, a poor ignorant raw lad, lately discharged from 
a ship of war — certainly not the most proper school to learn a 
prudent aversion to unlucky or mischievous practices — observed 
the sons of gentlemen of the first respectability engaged in such 
amusements, unchecked by their parents or by the magistrates, 
surely it can hardly be expected that he should discover that in 
imitating them in so common a practice, he was constituting 
himself hostis humani generis, a wretch the pest and scourge 
of mankind. 

" There is, no doubt, attached to every even the most innocent 
of casual slaughter, a certain degree of blame, inasmuch as 
almost everything of the kind might have been avoided had the 
slayer exhibited the strictest degree of diligence. A well-known 
and authentic story will illustrate the proposition. A young 
gentleman, just married to a young lady of whom he was pas- 
sionately fond, in afEectionate trifling presented at her a pistol, 
of which he had drawn the charge some days before. The 
lady, entering into the joke, desired him to fire : he did so, and 
shot her dead ; the pistol having been again charged by his ser- 
vant without his knowledge. Can any one read this story, and 

212 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 24 

feel any emotion but that of sjrmpathy towards the unhappy 
husband ? Can they ever connect the case with an idea of 
punishment ? Yet, divesting it of these interesting circum- 
stances which act upon the imagination, it is precisely that of 
the panel at your Lordships' Bar ; and though no one will pre- 
tend to say that such a homicide is other than casual, yet there 
is not the slightest question but it might have been avoided had 
the kiUer taken the precaution of examining his piece. But 
this is not the degree of culpa which tan raise a misfortune to 
the pitch of a crime. It is only an instance that no accident can 
take place without its afterwards being discovered that the chief 
actor might have avoided committing it, had he been gifted 
with the spirit of prophecy, or with such an extreme degree of 
prudence as is almost equally rare. 

" In the instance of shooting at butts, or at a bird, the person 
killed must have been somewhat in the line previous to the dis- 
charge of the shot, otherways it could never have come near 
him. The shooter must therefore have been guilty otdpce levis 
seu levissimce in firing while the deceased was in such a situa- 
tion. In like manner, it is difficult to conceive how death 
should happen in consequence of a boxing or wrestling match, 
without some excess upon the part of the killer. Nay, in the ex- 
ercise of the martial amusements of our forefathers, even by 
royal commission, should a champion be slain in running his 
barriers, or performing his tournament, it could scarcely happen 
without some culpa seu levis seu levissitna on the part of his 
antagonist. Yet all these are enumerated in the English law- 
books as instances of casual homicide only ; and we may there- 
fore safely conclude, that by the law of the sister country a 
slight degree of blame will not subject the slayer per infortur 
nium to the penalties of culpable homicide. 

" Guilt, as an object of punishment, has its origin in the mind 
and intention of the actor ; and therefore, where that is want- 
ing, there is no proper object of chastisement. A madman, for 
example, can no more properly be said to be guilty of murder 
than the sword with which he commits it, both being equally 
incapable of intending injury. In the present case, in like 
manner, although it ought no doubt to be matter of deep sorrow 
and contrition to the panel that his f oUy should have occasioned 
the loss of life to a fellow-creature ; yet as that folly can nei- 

1795 LOVE-AFFAIR 213 

ther be termed malice, nor yet doth amount to a gross negli- 
gence, he ought rather to be pitied than condemned. The fact 
done can never be recalled, and it rests with your Lordships to 
consider the case of this unfortunate young man, who has served 
his country in an humble though useful station, — deserved 
such a character as is given him in the letter of his officers, — 
and been disabled in that service. You wiU best judge how 
(considering he has suffered a confinement of six months) he 
can in humanity be the object of further or severer punishment, 
for a deed of which his mind at least, if not his hand, is guilt- 
less. When a case is attended with some nicety, your Lord- 
ships win aUow mercy to incline the balance of justice, well 
considering with the legislator of the East, ' It is better ten 
guilty should escape than that one innocent man should perish 
in his innocence.' " 

The young sailor was acquitted. 

To return for a moment to Scott's love-affair. I find 
him writing as follows, in March, 1795, to his cousin, 
William Scott, now Laird of Eaeburn, who was then in 
the East Indies: — "The lady you allude to has been in 
town all this winter, and going a good deal into pub- 
lic, which has not in the least altered the meekness 
of her manners. Matters, you see, stand just as they 

To another friend he writes thus, from Rosebank, on 
the 23d of August, 1795 : — 

It gave me the highest satisfaction to find, by the 
receipt of your letter of the 14th current, that you have 
formed precisely the same opinion with me, both with 
regard to the interpretation of [Miss Stuart's] letter as 
highly flattering and favorable, and to the mode of con- 
duct I ought to pursue — for, after all, what she has 
pointed out is the most prudent line of conduct for us 
both, at least till better days, which, I think myself now 
entitled to suppose, she, as well as I myself, will look 
forward to with pleasure. If you were surprised at read- 

214 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 24 

ing the important billet, you may guess how agreeably I 
was so at receiving it; for I had, to anticipate disappoint- 
ment, struggled to suppress every rising gleam of hope; 
and it would be very difficult to describe the mixed feel- 
ings her letter occasioned, which, entre nous, terminated 
in a very hearty fit of crying. I read over her epistle 
about ten times a day, and always with new admiration 
of her generosity and candor — and as often take shame 
to myself for the mean suspicions, which, after knowing 
her so long, I could listen to, while endeavoring to guess 
how she would conduct herself. To tell you the truth, 
I cannot but confess that my amour propre, which one 
would expect should have been exalted, has suffered not 
a little upon this occasion, through a sense of my own 
unworthiness, pretty similar to that which afflicted Lin- 
ton upon sitting down at Keir's table. I ought perhaps 
to tell you, what indeed you will perceive from her letter, 
that I was always attentive, while consulting with you 
upon the subject of my declaration, rather to under- than 
over-rate the extent of our intimacy. By the way, I 
must not omit mentioning the respect in which I hold 
your knowledge of the fair sex, and your capacity of 
advising in these matters, since it certainly is to your 
encouragement that I owe the present situation of my 
affairs. I wish to God, that, since you have acted as so 
useful an auxiliary during my attack, which has suc- 
ceeded in bringing the enemy to terms, you would next 
sit down before some fortress yourself, and were it as 
impregnable as the rock of Gibraltar, I should, notwith- 
standing, have the highest expectations of your final suc- 
cess. Not a, line from poor Jack — What can he be 
doing? Moping, I suppose, about some watering-place, 
and deluging his guts with specifics of every kind — or 
lowering and snorting in one corner of a post-chaise, with 
Kennedy, as upright and cold as a poker, stuck into the 
other. As for Linton, and Crab, I anticipate with plea- 
sure their marvellous adventures, in the course of which 


Dr. Black's self-denying ordinance will run a shrewd 
chauce of being neglected.^ They will be a source of 
fun for the winter evening conversations. Methinks I 
see the pair upon the mountains of Tipperary — John 
with a beard of three inches, united and -blended with 
his shaggy black locks, an ellwand-looking cane with a 
gilt head in his hand, and a bundle in a handkerchief 
over his shoulder, exciting the cupidity of every Irish 
raparee who passes him, by his resemblance to a Jew 
pedlar who has sent forward his pack — Linton, tired of 
trailing his long legs, exalted in state upon an Irish gar- 
ron, without stirrups, and a halter on its head, tempting 
every one to ask — 

" Who is that upon the pony, 
So long, so lean, so raw, so bony ? " ^ 

— calculating, as he moves along, the expenses of the 
salt horse — and grinning a ghastly smile, when the hol- 
low voice of his fellow-traveller observes — "God ! Adam, 
if ye gang on at this rate, the eight shillings and seven- 
pence halfpenny will never carry us forward to my 
uncle's at Lisburn." Enough of a thorough Irish expe- 

We have a great marriage towards here — Scott of 
Harden, and a daughter of Count Briihl, the famous 
chess-player, a lady of sixteen quarters, half-sister to the 
Wyndhams. I wish they may come down soon, as we 
shall have fine racketing, of which I will, probably, get 
my share. I think of being in town some time next 
month, but whether for good and all; or only for a visit, 

1 Crab was the nickname of a, friend who had accompanied Fergusoti 
this summer on an Irish tonr. Dr. Black, celebrated for his discoveries 
in diemistry, was Adam Ferguson's nncle; and had, it seems, given 
the yonng travellers a strong admonition touching the dangers of Irish hos- 

2 These lines are part of a song on IAttle4ony — t. e., the Parliamentary 
orator Littleton. They are quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson, originally 
published in 1791. 

2i6 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 24 

I am not certain. Oh, for November 1 Our meeting will 
be a little embarrassing one. How will she look, etc., 
etc., etc., are the important subjects of my present con- 
jectures — how different from what they were three weeks 
ago ! I give you leave to laugh when I tell, you seriously, 
I had begun to "dwindle, peak, and pine," upon the 
subject — but now, after the charge I have received, it 
were a shame to resemble Pharaoh's lean kine. If good 
living and plenty of exercise can avert that calamity, I 
am in little danger of disobedience, and so, to conclude 

Dicite lo poean, et lo bis dicite poean ! — 
Jubeo te bene valere, 


I have had much hesitation about inserting the preced- 
ing letter, but could not make up my mind to omit what 
seems to me a most exquisite revelation of the whole char- 
acter of Scott at this critical period of his history, both 
literary and personal; — more especially of his habitual 
effort to suppress, as far as words were concerned, the 
more tender feelings, which were in no heart deeper than 
in his. 

It must, I think, have been, while he was indulging 
his vagabond vein, during the autumn of 1795, that Mrs. 
Barbauld paid her visit to Edinburgh, and entertained a 
party at Mr. Dugald Stewart's, by reading Mr. William 
Taylor's then unpublished version of Biirger's Lenore. 
In the essay on Imitation of Popular Poetry, the reader 
has a full account of the interest with which Scott heard, 
some weeks afterwards, a friend's imperfect recollections 
of this performance; the anxiety with which he sought 
after a copy of the original German; the delight with 
which he at length perused it; and how, having just been 
reading the specimens of ballad poetry introduced into 
Lewis's romance of The Monk, he called to mind the 
early facility of versification which had lain so long in 


abeyance, and ventured to promise his friend a rhymed 
translation of Lenore from his own pen. The friend in 
question was Miss Cranstoun, afterwards Countess of 
Purgstall, the sister of his friend George Cranstoun, now 
Lord Corehouse. He began the task, he tells us, after 
supper, and did not retire to bed until he had finished it, 
having by that time worked himself into a state of ex- 
citement which set sleep at defiance. 

Next morning, before breakfast, he carried his MS. 
to Miss Cranstoun, who was not only delighted but aston- 
ished at it ; for I have seen a letter of hers to a common 
friend in the country, in which she says — "Upon my 
word, Walter Scott is going to turn out a poet — some- 
thing of a cross, I think, between Burns and Gray." The 
same day he read it also to his friend Sir Alexander 
Wood, who retains a vivid recollection of the high strain 
of enthusiasm into which he had been exalted by dwell- 
ing on the wild unearthly imagery of the German bard. 
"He read it over to me," says Sir Alexander, "in a very 
slow and solemn tone, and after we had said a few words 
about its merits, continued to look at the fire silent and 
musing for some minutes, until he at length burst out 
with 'I wish to Heaven I could get a skull and two cross- 
bones.' " Wood said that if Scott would accompany 
him to the house of John BeU, the celebrated surgeon, 
he had no doubt this wish might be easily gratified. 
They went thither accordingly on the instant; — Mr. 
Bell smiled on hearing the object of their visit, and point- 
ing to a closet, at the corner of his library, bade Walter 
enter and choose. From a well-furnished museum of 
mortality, he selected forthwith what seemed to him the 
handsomest skull and pair of cross-bones it contained, 
and wrapping them in his handkerchief, carried the for- 
midable bundle home to George's Square. The trophies 
were immediately mounted on the top of his little book- 
case; and when Wood visited him, after many years of 
absence from this country, he found them in possession 

21 8 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 24 

of a similar position in his dressing-room at Abbots- 

All this occurred in the beginning of April, 1796. A 
few days afterwards, Scott went to pay a visit at a coun- 
try house, where he expected to meet the "lady of his 
love." Jane Anne Cranstoun was in the secret of his 
attachment, and knew, that however doubtful might be 
Miss [Stuart's] feeling on that subject, she had a high 
admiration of Scott's abilities, and often corresponded 
with him on literary matters; so, after he had left Edin- 
burgh, it occurred to her that she might perhaps forward 
his views in this quarter, by presenting him in the char- 
acter of a printed author. William Erskine being called 
into her councils, a few copies of the ballad were forth- 
with thrown off in the most elegant style, and one, richly 
bound and blazoned, followed Scott in the course of a 
few days to the country. The verses were read and ap- 
proved of, and Miss Cranstoun at least flattered herself 
that he had not made his first appearance in types to no 

I ought to have mentioned before, that in June, 1795, 
he was appointed one of the curators of the Advocates' 
Library, an office always reserved for those members of 
the Faculty who have the reputation of superior zeal in 
literary affairs. He had for colleagues David Hume, 
the Professor of Scots Law, and Malcolm Laing, the 
historian ; and his discharge of his functions must have 
given satisfaction, for I find him further nominated, in 
March, 1796, together with Mr. Eobert Hodgson Cay — 
an accomplished gentleman, afterwards Judge of the 
Admiralty Court in Scotland — to "put the Faculty's 
cabinet of medals in proper arrangement." 

^ Sir A. Wood was himself the son of a distinguished suigeon in Edin- 
bnigh. He married one of the danghteis of Sir William Forbes — rose in 
the diplomatic service — and died in 1846. — (1848.) 

" This story was told by the Countess of Pnigstall on her deathbed to 
Captain BasU Hall. See his Schloss Bainfeld, p. 333. 


On the 4th of June, 1796 (the birthday of George III.), 
there seems to have been a formidable riot in Edinburgh, 
and Scott is found again in the front. On the 5th, he 
writes as follows to his aunt, Christian Kutherford, who 
was then in the north of Scotland, and had meant to 
visit, among other places, the residence of the "chere 

EDiNBcrBOH, 6th June, 1796. 

Mt ChSee Amik, — Nothing doubting that your cu- 
riosity will be upon the tenters to hear the wonderful 
events of the long-expected 4th of June, I take the pen 
to inform you that not one worth mentioning has taken 
place. Were I inclined to prolixity, I might, indeed, 
narrate at length how near a thousand gentlemen (myself 
among the number) offered their services to the magis- 
trates to act as constables for the preservation of the 
peace — how their services were accepted — what fine 
speeches were made upon the occasion — how they were 
furnished with pretty painted brown batons — how they 
were assembled in the aisle of the New Church, and 
treated with claret and sweetmeats — how Sir John 
"Whiteford was chased by the mob, and how Tom, Sandy 
Wood, and I rescued him, and dispersed his tormentors 
a beaux coups de batons — how the Justice-Clerk's win- 
dows were broke by a few boys, and how a large body of 
constables and a press-gang of near two hundred men 
arrived, and were much disappointed at finding the coast 
entirely clear; with many other matters of equal impor- 
tance, but of which you must be contented to remain in 
ignorance till you return to your castle. Seriously, every- 
thing, with the exception of the very trifling circum- 
stances above mentioned, was perfectly quiet — much 
more so than during any King's birthday I can recollect. 
That very stillness, however, shows that something is 
brewing among our friends the Democrats, which they 
will take their own time of bringing forward. By the 
wise precautions of the magistrates, or rather of the pro- 

220 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 25 

vost, and the spirited conduct of the gentlemen, I hope 
their designs will be frustrated. Our association meets 
to-night, when we are to be divided into districts accord- 
ing to the place of our abode, places of rendezvous and 
captains named; so that, upon the hoisting of a flag on 
the Tron-steeple, and ringing out all the large bells, we 
can be on duty in less than five minutes. I am sorry to 
say that the complexion of the town seems to justify all 
precautions of this kind. I hope we shall demean our- 
selves as quiet and peaceable magistrates; and intend, 
for the purpose of learning the duties of my new office, 
to con diligently the instructions delivered to the watch 
by our brother Dogberry, of facetious memory. So much 
for information. By way of inquiry, pray let me know 
— that is, when you find a very idle hour — how you ac- 
complished the perilous passage of her Majestie's Ferry 
without the assistance and escort of your preux-chevalier, 
and whether you will receive them on your return — how 
Miss R. and you are spending your time, whether station- 
ary or otherwise — above all, whether you have been at 
[Invermay] and all the etcs., etcs., which the question in- 
volves. Having made out a pretty long scratch, which, 
as Win Jenkins says, will take you some time to de- 
cipher, I shall only inform you farther, that I shall tire 
excessively till you return to your shop. I beg to be 
remembered to Miss Kerr, and in particular to La Belle 
Jeanne. Best love to Miss Rutherford ; and believe me 
ever, my dear Miss Christy, sincerely and affectionately 
your Walter Scott. 

During the autumn of 1796 he visited again his favor- 
ite haunts in Perthshire and Forfarshire. It was in 
the course of this tour that he spent a day or two at 
Montrose with his old tutor Mitchell, and astonished and 
grieved that worthy Presbyterian by his zeal about 
witches and fairies.^ The only letter of his, written dur- 
^ See ante, p. 97. 

1796 LOVE-AFFAIR 221 

ing this expedition, that I have recovered, was addressed 
to another of his clerical friends — one IJy no means of 
Mitchell's stamp — Mr. Walker, the minister of Dun- 
nottar, and it is chiefly occupied with an account of his 
researches at a vitrified fort, in Kincardineshire, com- 
monly called Lady Fenella's Castle, and, according to 
tradition, the scene of the murder of Kenneth III. 
While in the north, he visited also the residence of the 
lady who had now for so many years been the object of 
his attachment; and that his reception was not adequate 
to his expectations, may be gathered pretty clearly from 
some expressions in a letter addressed to him when at 
Montrose by his friend and confidante, Miss Crans- 
toun : — 


Deab Scott, — Far be it from me to affirm that there are no 
diviners in the land. The voice of the people and the voice of 
God are loud in their testimony. Two years ago, when I was 
in the neighborhood of Montrose, we had recourse for amuse- 
ment one evening to chiromancy, or, as the vulgar say, having 
our fortunes read ; and read mine were in such a sort, that 
either my letters must have been inspected, or the devil was by 
in his own proper person. I never mentioned the circumstance 
since, for obvious reasons ; but now that you are on the spot, I 
feel it my bounden duty to conjure you not to put your shoes 
rashly from off your feet, for you are not standing on holy 

I bless the gods for conducting your poor dear soul safely 
to Perth. When I consider the wilds, the forests, the lakes, 
the rocks — and the spirits in which you must have whispered 
to their startled echoes, it amazeth me how you escaped. Had 
you but dismissed your little squire and Earwig,* and spent a 
few days as Orlando would have done, all posterity might have 
profited by it ; but to trot quietly away, without so much as 
one stanza to despair — never talk to me of love again — never, 
never, never ! I am dying for your collection of exploits. 
1 A serraiit-boy and pony. 

222 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 25 

When will you return ? In the mean time, Heaven speed you ! 
Be sober, and hope to the end. 

William Taylor's translation of your ballad is published, 
and so inferior, that I wonder we could tolerate it. Dngald 
Stewart read yours to * * * * the other day. When he came to 
the fetter dance,^ he looked up, and poor ***** was sitting 
with his hands nailed to his knees, and the big tears rolling 
down his innocent nose in so piteous a manner, that Mr. Stew- 
art could not help bursting out ar-laughing. An angry man was 
*****_ I iiave seen another edition, too, but it is below 
contempt. So many copies make the ballad famous, so that 
every day adds to your renown. 

This here place is very, very dull. Erskine is in London ; 
my dear Thomson at Daily ; Macf arlan hatching Kant — and 
George ^ Fountainhall.' I have nothing more to tell you, but 
that I am most affectionately yours. Many an anxious thought 
I have about you. Farewell. — J. A. C. 

1 " ' Dost fear ? dost fear ? — The moon shines dear ; — 
Dost fear to lide with me ? 
Hnrrah ! hurrah ! the dead can ride 1 ' — 
' Oh, WiUiam, let them be ! ' 

" ' See there ! see there ! What yonder swings 
And creaks 'mid whistling rain ? ' — 
Gibbet and steel, the accursed wheel, 
A murderer in his chain, 

" ' Hollo ! thou felon, follow here, 
To bridal bed we ride ; 
And thou shalt prance a fetter donoe 
Before me and my bride.' 

" And hurry, hurry ! clash, clash, clash I 
The wasted form descends ; 
And ileet as wind, through hazel bush, 
The wild career attends. 

" Tramp, tramp ! along the land they rode ; 
Splash, splash ! along the sea ; 
The scourge is red, the spnr drops blood. 
The flashing pebbles flee." 


George Cranstoun, Lord Corehouse. 

' Decisions by Lord Fountainhall. 

1796 LOVE-AFFAIR 223 

The affair in which this romantic creature took so 
lively an interest was now approaching its end. It was 
known, before this autumn closed, that the lady of his 
vows had finally promised her hand to his amiable rival; 
and, when the fact was announced, some of those who 
knew Scott the best appear to have entertained very 
serious apprehensions as to the effect which the disap- 
pointment might have upon his feelings. For example, 
one of those brothers of the Mountain wrote as follows 
to another of them, on the 12th October, 1796: "Mr. 
[Forbes] marries Miss [Stuart]. This is not good news. 
I always dreaded there was some self-deception on the 
part of our romantic friend, and I now shudder at the 
violence of his most irritable and ungovernable mind. 
Who is it that says, ' Men have died, and worms have 
eaten them, but not for love ' ? I hope sincerely it may 
be verified on this occasion." 

Scott had, however, in all likelihood, digested his 
agony during the solitary ride in the Highlands to which 
. Miss Cranstoun's last letter alludes. 

Talking of this story with Lord Kinnedder, I once asked 
him whether Scott never made it the subject of verses at 
the period. His own confession, that, even during the 
time when he had laid aside the habit of versification, he 
did sometimes commit "a sonnet on a mistress's eye- 
brow," had not then appeared. Lord Kinnedder an- 
swered, "Oh yes, he made many little stanzas about the 
lady, and he sometimes showed them to Cranstoun, Clerk, 
and myself — but we really thought them in general very 
poor. Two things of the kind, however, have been pre- 
served — and one of them was done just after the conclu- 
sion of the business." He then took down a volume of 
the English Minstrelsy, and pointed out to me some lines 
On a Violet, which had not at that time been included 
in Scott's collected works. Lord Kinnedder read them 
over in his usual impressive, though not quite unaffected, 
manner, and said, "I remember well, that when I first 

224 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 25 

saw these, I told him they were his best, but he had 
touched them up afterwards." 

" The violet in her greenwood bower, 

Where birchen boughs with hazels mingle, 
May boast itself the fairest flower 
In glen or copse or forest dingle. 

" Though fair her gems of azure hue 

Beneath the dewdrop's weight reclining, 
I Ve seen an eye of lovelier blue 
More sweet through watery lustre shining. 

" The sommer sun that dew shall dry, 
Ere yet the snn be past its morrow. 
Nor longer in my false love's eye 

Remained the tear of parting sorrow I " 

In turning over a volume of MS. papers, I have found 
a copy of verses, which, from the hand, Scott had evi- 
dently written down within the last ten years of his life. 
They are' headed "To Time — by a Lady;" but cer- 
tain initials on the back satisfy me that the authoress 
was no other than the object of his first passion.^ I 
think I must be pardoned for transcribing the lines which 
had dwelt so long on his memory — leaving it to the 
reader's fancy to picture the mood of mind in which the 
fingers of a gray-haired man may have traced such a 
relic of his youthful dreams : — 

" Friend of the wretch oppress'd with grief, 
Whose lenient hand, though slow, supplies 
The balm that lends to care relief, 
That wipes her tears — that checks her ^hs ! 

' 'T is fhine the wounded soul to heal 

That hopeless bleeds from sorrow's smart, 
From stem misfortune's shaft to steal 
The barb that rankles in the heart. 

^ A very intimate friend both of Scott and of the lady tells me that 
these verses were great favorites of hers — she gave himself a copy of 
them, and no doubt her recitation had made diem known to Scott — but 
that he believes them to have been composed by Mrs. Hunter of Norwich. 
— (1839.) 

1796 LOVE-AFFAIR 225 

" What though with thee the roses fly, 
And jocund youth's gay reign is o'er ; 
Though dimm'd the lustre of the eye, 
And hope's vain dreams enchant no more ? 

' Yet in thy train come dove-eyed peace, 

Indifference with her heart of snow ; 
At her cold couch, lo 1 sorrows cease, 

No thorns beneath her roses grow. 

" O haste to grant thy suppliant's prayer, 
To me thy torpid calm impart ; 
Bend from my brow youth's garland fair, 
But take the thorn that 's in my heart. 

" Ah 1 why do fabling poets tell 

That thy fleet wings outstrip the wind ? 
Why feign thy course of joy the knell, 
And call thy slowest pace unkind ? 

" To me thy tedious feeble pace 

Comes laden with the weight of years ; 
With sighs I view mom's blushing face. 
And hail mild evening with my tears." 

I venture to recall here to the reader's memory the 
opening of the twelfth chapter of Peveril of the Peak, 
written twenty-six years after the date of this youthful 

" Ah me 1 for aught that ever I could read. 
Could ever hear by tale or history. 
The course of true love never did run smooth ! " 

Midsummer Night's Dream. 

"The celebrated passage which we have prefixed to 
this chapter has, like most observations of the same 
author, its foundation in real experience. The period 
at which love is formed for the first time, and felt most 
strongly, is seldom that at which there is much p*)spect 
of its being brought to a happy issue. The state of arti- 
ficial society opposes many complicated obstructions to 
early marriages ; and th^ chance is very great, that such 
obstacles prove insurmountable. In fine, there are few 
men who do not look back in secret to some period of 

226 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 25 

their youth, at which a sincere and early affection was 
repulsed or betrayed, or became abortive from opposing 
circumstances. It is these little passages of secret his- 
tory, which leave a tinge of romance in every bosom, 
scarce permitting us, even in the most busy or the most 
advanced period of life, to listen with total indifference 
to a tale of true love." 






Bebelling, as usual, against circumstances, Scott 
seems to have turned with renewed ardor to his literary 
pursuits; and in that same October, 1796, he was "pre- 
vailed on," as he playfully expresses it, "by the reqv£st 
of friends, to indulge his own vanity, by publishing the 
translation of Lenore, with that of The Wild Huntsman, 
also from Biirger, in a thin quarto." The little volume, 
which has no author's name on the title-page, was printed 
for Manners and Miller of Edinburgh. The first named 
of these respectable publishers had been a fellow -student 
in the German class of Dr. Willich; and this circum- 
stance probably suggested the negotiation. It was con- 
ducted by William Erskine, as appears from his post- 
script to a letter addressed to Scott by his sister, who, 
before it reached its destination, had become the wife of 
Mr. Campbell Colquhoun of Clathick and Killermont — 
in after-days Lord Advocate of Scotland. This was 
another of Scott's dearest female friends. The humble 
home which she shared with her brother during his early 
struggles at the Bar had been the scene of many of his 
happiest hours; and her letter affords such a pleasing 
idea of the warm affectionateness of the little circle that 
I cannot forbear inserting it: — 

228 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 25 


Monday eyening. 

If it were not that etiquette and I were constantly at war, 
I should think myself very blamable in thus trespassing against 
one of its laws ; but as it is long since I forswore its dominion, 
I have acquired a prescriptive right to act as I will — and I 
shall accordingly anticipate the station of a matron in addressing 
a young man. 

I can express but a very, very little of what I feel, and 
shall ever feel, for your unintermitting friendship and attention. 
I have ever considered you as a brother, and shall now think 
myself entitled to make even larger claims on your confidence. 
Well do I remember the dark conference we lately held to- 
gether ! The intention of unfolding my own future fate was 
often at my lips. 

I cannot tell you my distress at leaving this house, wherein 
I have enjoyed so much real happiness, and giving up the ser- 
vice of so gentle a master, whose yoke was indeed easy. I will 
therefore only commend him to your care as the last bequest of 
Mary Anne Erskine, and conjure you to continue to each other 
through all your pilgrimage as you have commenced it. May 
every happiness attend you,! Adieu ! 

Your most sincere friend and sister, 

M. A. E. 

Mr. Erskine writes on the other page, "The poems 
are gorgeous, but I have made no bargain with any book- 
seller. I have told M. and M. that I won't be satisfied 
with indemnity, but an offer must be made. They will 
be out before the end of the week." On what terms the 
publication really took place, I know not. 

It has already been mentioned that Scott owed his 
copy of Biirger's works to the young lady of Harden, 
whose marriage occurred in the autumn of 1795. She 
was daughter of Count Briihl of Martkirchen, long 
Saxon ambassador at the Court of St. James's, by his 
wife Almeria, Countess-Dowager of Egremont. The 
young kinsman was introduced to her soon after her 


arrival at Mertoun, and his attachment to German stud- 
ies excited her attention and interest. Mrs. Scott sup- 
plied him with many standard German books, besides 
Biirger; and the gift of an Adelung's dictionary from 
his old ally, George Constable (Jonathan Oldbuck), ena- 
bled him to master their contents sufficiently for the pur- 
poses of translation. The ballad of The Wild Huntsman 
appears to have been executed duriug the month that 
preceded his first publication; and he was thenceforth 
engaged in a succession of versions from the dramas of 
Meier and Iffland, several of which are stiU extant in his 
MS., marked 1796 and 1797. These are all in prose 
like their originals; but he also versified at the same 
time some lyrical fragments of Goethe, as, for example, 
the Morlachian Ballad, 

" What yonder glimmers so white on the moimtajn," 

and the song from Claudina von Villa Bella. He con- 
sulted his friend at Mertoun on all these essays; and I 
have often heard him say, that, among those many "obli- 
gations of a distant date which remained impressed on 
his memory, after a life spent in a constant interchange of 
friendship and kindness," he counted not as the least, the 
lady's frankness in correcting his Scotticisms, and more 
especially his Scottish rhymes. 

His obligations to this lady were indeed various; but 
I doubt, after all, whether these were the most impor- 
tant. He used to say that she was the first woman of 
real fashion that tooh him up ; that she used the privi- 
leges of her sex and station in the truest spirit of kind- 
ness; set him right as to a thousand little trifles, which 
no one else would have ventured to notice; and, in short, 
did for him what no one but an elegant woman can do 
for a young man, whose early days have been spent in 
narrow and provincial circles. "When I first saw Sir 
Walter," she writes to me, "he was about four- or five- 
and-twenty, but looked much younger. He seemed bash- 

ajo SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 25 

ful and awkward; but there were from the first such 
gleams of superior sense and spirit in his conversation, 
that I was hardly surprised when, after our acquaintance 
had ripened a little, I felt myself to be talking with a 
man of genius. He was most modest about himself, and 
showed his little pieces apparently without any conscious- 
ness that they could possess any claim on particular at- 
tention. Nothing so easy and good-humored as the way 
in which he received any hints I might, offer, when he 
seemed to be tampering with the King's English. I re- 
member particularly how he laughed at himself, when I 
made him take notice that ' the little two dogs,' in some 
of his lines, did not please an English ear accustomed to 
'the two little dogs.'" 

Nor was this the only person at Mertoun who took a 
lively interest in his pursuits. Harden entered into all 
the feelings of his beautiful bride on this subject; and 
his mother, the Lady Diana Scott, daughter of the last 
Earl of Marchmont, did so no less. She had conversed, 
in her early days, with the brightest ornaments of the 
cycle of Queen Anne, and preserved rich stores of anec- 
dote, well calculated to gratify the curiosity and excite 
the ambition of a young enthusiast in literature. Lady 
Diana soon appreciated the minstrel of the clan; and, 
surviving to a remarkable age, she had the satisfaction 
of seeing him at the height of his eminence — the solitary 
person who could give the author of Marmion personal 
reminiscences of Pope.^ 

On turning to James Ballantyne's Memorandum (al- 
ready quoted), I find an account of Scott's journey from 
Bosebank to Edinburgh, in the November after the Bal- 
lads from Biirger were published, which gives an inter- 
esting notion of his literary zeal and opening ambition at 
this remarkable epoch of bis life. Mr. Ballantyne had 

' Mr. Scott of Harden's right to the peerage of Polwarth, aa repreaent- 
ing, through his mother, the line of Marchmont, was allowed by the 
House of Lords in 1835. 


settled in Kelso as a solicitor in 1795; but, not imme- 
diately obtaining much professional practice, time hung 
heavy on his hands, and he wiUingly listened, in the 
summer of 1796, to a proposal of some of the neighbor- 
ing nobility and gentry respecting the establishment of 
a weekly newspaper,^ in opposition to one of a democratic 
tendency, then widely circulated in Koxburghshire and 
the other Border counties. He undertook the printing 
and editing of this new journal, and proceeded to Lon- 
don, in order to engage correspondents and make other 
necessary preparations. While thus for the first time in 
the metropolis, he happened to meet with two authors, 
whose reputations were then in full bloom, — namely, 
Thomas Holcroft and WiUiam Godwin, — the former, a 
popular dramatist and novelist; the latter, a novelist of 
far greater merit, but "still more importantly distin- 
guished," says the Memorandum before me, "by those 
moral, legal, political, and religious heterodoxies, which 
his talents enabled him to present to the world in a very 
captivating manner. His Caleb Williams had then just 
come out, and occupied as much public attention as any 
work has done before or since." "Both these eminent 
persons," Ballanlyne continues, "I saw pretty frequently; 
and being anxious to hear whatever I could tell about 
the literary men in Scotland, they both treated me with 
remarkable freedom of communication. They were both 
distinguished by the clearness of their elocution, and very 
full of triumphant confidence in the truth of their sys- 
tems. They were as willing to speak, therefore, as I 
could be to hear; and as I put my questions with all the 
fearlessness of a very young man, the result was, that I 
carried away copious and interesting stores of thought 
and information: that the greater part of what I heard 
was full of error, never entered into my contemplation. 
Holcroft at this time was a fine-looking, lively man, of 
green old age, somewhere about sixty. Godwin, some 

1 The Kelso Mail. 

232 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 25 

twenty years younger, was more shy and reserved. As 
to me, my delight and enthusiasm were boundless." 

After returning home, Ballantyne made another jour- 
ney to Glasgow for the purchase of types; and on enter- 
ing the Kelso coach for this purpose, "It would not be 
easy," says he, "to express my joy on finding that Mr. 
Scott was to be one of my partners in the carriage, the 
only other passenger being a fine, stout, muscular, old 
Quaker. A very few miles reestablished us on our an- 
cient footing. Travelling not being half so speedy then 
as it is now, there was plenty of leisure for talk, and 
Mr. Scott was exactly what is called the old man. He 
abounded, as in the days of boyhood, in legendary lore, 
and had now added to the stock, as his recitations showeid, 
many of those fine ballads which afterwards composed the 
Minstrelsy. Indeed, I was more delighted with him than 
ever; and, by way of reprisal, I opened on him my Lon- 
don budget, collected from Holcroft and Godwin. I 
doubt if Boswell ever showed himself a more skiKul 
JReporter than I did on this occasion. Hour after hour 
passed away, and found my borrowed eloquence still flow- 
ing, and my companion still hanging on my lips with un- 
wearied interest. It was customary in those days to 
break the journey (only forty miles) by dining on the 
road, the consequence of which was, that we both became 
rather oblivious; and after we had reentered the coach, 
the worthy Quaker felt quite vexed and disconcerted 
with the silence which had succeeded so much conversa- 
tion. 'I wish,' said he, 'my young friends, that you 
would cheer up, and go on with your pleasant songs and 
tales as before: they entertained me much.' And so," 
says Ballantyne, "it went on again until the evening 
found us in Edinburgh ; and from that day, until within 
a very short time of his death — a period of not less than 
five-and-thirty years — I may venture to say that our in- 
tercourse never flagged." 

The reception of the two ballads had, in the mean 


time, been favorable, in his own circle at least. The 
many inaccuracies and awkwardnesses of rhyme and dic- 
tion, to which he alludes in republishing them towards 
the close of his life, did not prevent real lovers of poetry 
from seeing that no one but a poet could have transfused 
the daring imagery of the German in a style so free, 
bold, masculine, and full of life ; but, wearied as all such 
readers had been with that succession of feeble, flimsy, 
lackadaisical trash which followed the appearance of the 
Eeliques by Bishop Percy, the opening of such a new vein 
of popular poetry as these verses revealed would have 
been enough to produce lenient critics for far inferior 
translations. Many, as we have seen, sent forth copies 
of the Lenore about the same time; and some of these 
might be thought better than Scott's in particular pas- 
sages; but, on the whole, it seems to have been felt and 
acknowledged by those best entitled to judge, that he 
deserved the palm. Meantime, we must not forget that 
Scotland had lost that very year the great poet Burns, 
— her glory and her shame. It is at least to be hoped 
that a general sentiment of self-reproach, as well as of 
sorrow, had been excited by the premature extinction of 
such a light; and, at all events, it is agreeable to know 
that they who had watched his career with the most affec- 
tionate concern were among the first to hail the promise 
of a more fortunate successor. Scott found on his table, 
when he reached Edinburgh, the following letters from 
two of Burns 's kindest and wisest friends: — 


Mt dear Sir, — I beg you will accept of my best thanks 
for the favor you have done me by sending me four copies of 
your beautiful translations. I shall retain two of them, as Mrs. 
Stewart and I both set a high value on them as gifts from the 
author. The other two I shall take the earliest opportunity of 
transmitting to a friend in England, who, I hope, may be in- 
strumental in making their merits more generally known at the 

234 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 25 

time of their first appearance. In a few weeks, I am fully per- 
suaded they will engage public attention to the utmost extent 
of your wishes, without the aid of any recommendation what- 
ever. I ever am, Dear Sir, yours most truly, 

DuGAiD Stewart. 
CAiroNaAiE, Wednesday evening. 


Dear Sib, — On my return from Cardross, where I had 
been for a week, I found yours of the 14th, which had surely 
loitered by the way. I thank you most cordially for your pre- 
sent. I meet with little poetry nowadays that touches my 
heart; but your translations excite mingled emotions of pity 
and terror, insomuch, that I would not wish any person of 
weaker nerves to read WiUiam and Helen before going to bed. 
Great must be the original, if it equals the translation in energy 
and pathos. One would almost suspect you have used as much 
liberty with Bilrger as Macpherson was suspected of doing with 
Ossiau. It is, however, easier to backspeir you. Sober reason 
rejects the machinery as unnatural ; it reminds me, however, 
of the magic of Shakespeare. Nothing has a finer effect than 
the repetition of certain words, that are echoes to the sense, as 
much as the celebrated lines in Homer about the rolling up and 
falling down of the stone : Tramp, tramp I splash, splash I is 
to me perfectly new ; and much of the imagery is nature. I 
should consider this muse of yours (if you carry the intrigue 
far) more likely to steal your heart from the law than even a 
wife. I am, Dear Sir, your most obedient, humble servant, 

Jo. Bamsat. 

OcHTERTTSE, 30th November, 1796. 

Among other literary persons at a distance, I may 
mention George Chalmers, the celebrated antiquary, with 
whom he had been in correspondence from the beginning 
of this year, supplying him with Border ballads for the 
illustration of his researches into Scotch history. This 
gentleman had been made acquainted with Scott's large 
collections in that way by a common friend, Dr. Somer- 
ville, minister of Jedburgh, author of the History of 


Queen Anne ; * and the numerous MS. copies communi- 
cated to him in consequence were recalled in the course 
of 1799, when the plan of the Minstrelsy began to take 
shape. Chalmers writes in great transports about Scott's 
versions; but weightier encouragement came from Mr. 
Taylor of Norwich, himself the first translator of the 

I need not tell you, sir [he writes], with how much eager- 
ness I opened your volume — with how much glow I followed 
The Chase — or with how much alarm I came to WiUiam and 
Helen. Of the latter I wiU say nothing ; praise might seem 
hypocrisy — criticism envy. The ghost nowhere makes his ap- 
pearance so well as with you, or his exit so well as with Mr. 
Spenser. I like very much the recurrence of 

" The scourge is red, the spur drops blood, 
The flashing pehbles flee ; " 

but of William and Helen I had resolved to say nothing. Let 
me return to The Chase, of which the metric stanza style pleases 
me entirely ; yet I think a few passages written in too elevated 
a strain for the general spirit of the poem. This age leans too 
much to the Darwin style. Mr. Percy's Lenore owes its cold- 
ness to the adoption of this ; and it seems peculiarly incongru- 
ous in the ballad — where habit has taught us to expect sim- 
plicity. Among the passages too stately and pompous, I should 
reckon — 

" The mountain echoes startling trake — 

And for devotion's choral swell 

Exchange the rude discordant noise — 

Fell Famine marks the maddening throng 

With cold Despair's averted eye," — 

and perhaps one or two more. In the twenty-first stanza, I 

1 Some extracts from this venerable person's unpublished Memoirs of 
his own Life have been kindly sent to me by his son, the well-known phy- 
sician of Chelsea College ; from which it appears that the reverend doc- 
tor, and, more particularly still, his wife, a lady of remarkable talent and 
humor, had formed a high notion of Scott's future eminence at a very 
early period of his life. Dr. S. survived to a great old age, preserving his 
faculties quite entire, and I have spent many pleasant hours under his hos- 
pitable roof in company with Sir Walter Scott. We heard him preach an 
excellent circuit sermon when he was upwards of eighty-two, and at the 
Judges' dinner afterwards he was among the gayest of the company. 

2^6 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 25 

prefer Bilrger's trampling the corn into chaff and d/ust, to your 
more metaphorical, and therefore less picturesque, " destructive 
sweep the field along." In the thirtieth, " On whirlwind's pin- 
ions swiftly borne," to me seems less striking than the stUl dis- 
apparition of the tumult and bustle — the earth has opened, and 
he is sinking with his evil genius to the nether world — as he 
approaches, dumpf rauscht es wie ein femes Meer — it should 
be rendered, therefore, not by " Save what a distant torrent 
gave," but by some sounds which shall necessarily excite the 
idea of being heU-sprung — the sound of simmering seas of fire 
— pinings of goblins damned — or some analogous noise. The 
forty-seventh stanza is a very great improvement of the originaL 
The profanest blasphemous speeches need not have been soft- 
ened down, as, in proportion to the impiety of the provocation, 
increases the poetical probability of the final punishment. I 
should not have ventured upon these criticisms, if I did not 
think it required a microscopic eye to make any, and if I did 
not on the whole consider The Chase as a most spirited and 
beautiful translation. I remain (to borrow in another sense a 
concluding phrase from the Spectator), your constant admirer, 

W. Taylor, Jun. 
Norwich, 14th December, 1796. 

The anticipations of these gentlemen, that Scott's ver- 
,sjons would attract general attention in the south, were 
not fulfilled. He himself attributes this to the contem- 
poraneous appearance of so many other translations from 
Lenore. "In a word," he says, "my adventure, where 
so many pushed off to sea, proved a dead loss, and a 
great part of the edition was condemned to the service 
of the trunkmaker. This failure did not operate in any 
unpleasant degree either on my feelings or spirits. I 
was coldly received by strangers, but my reputation be- 
gan rather to increase among my own friends, and on the 
whole I was more bent to show the world that it had neg- 
lected something worth notice, than to be affronted by 
its indifference; or rather, to speak candidly, I found 
pleasure in the literary labors in which I had almost by 
accident become engaged, and laboi;ed less in the hope of 


pleasing others, though certainly without despair of doing 
so, than in a pursuit of a new and agreeable amusement 
to myself."^ 

On the 12th of December Scott had the curiosity to 
witness the trial of one James Mackean, a shoemaker, 
for the murder of Buchanan, a carrier, employed to 
convey money weekly from the Glasgow bank to a manu- 
facturing establishment at Lanark. Mackean invited 
the carrier to spend the evening in his house ; conducted 
family worship in a style of much seeming fervor; and 
then, while his friend was occupied, came behind him, 
and almost severed his head from his body by one stroke 
of a razor. I have heard Scott describe the sanctimo- 
nious air which the murderer maintained during his trial 
— preserving throughout the aspect of a devout person, 
who believed himself to have been hurried into his accu- 
mulation of crime by an uncontrollable exertion of dia- 
bolical influence; and on his copy of the "Life of James 
Mackean, executed 25th January, 1797," I find the fol- 
lowing marginal note : — 

"I went to see this wretched man when under sentence 
of death, along with my friend, Mr. William Clerk, ad- 
vocate. His great anxiety was to convince us that his 
diabolical murder was committed from a sudden impulse 
of revengeful and violent passion, not from deliberate 
design of plunder. But the contrary was manifest from 
the accurate preparation of the deadly instrument — a 
razor strongly lashed to an iron bolt — and also from the 
evidence on the trial, from which it seems he had invited 
his victim to drink tea with him on the day he perpe- 
trated the murder, and that this was a reiterated invita- 
tion. Mackean was a good-looking elderly man, having 
a thin face and clear gray eye; such a man as may be 
ordinarily seen beside a collection -plate at a seceding 
meeting-house, a post which the said Mackean had occu- 
pied in his day. AU Mackean's account of the murder 
* Remarks on Popular Poetry. 1830. 

238 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 25 

is apocryphal. Buchanan was a powerful man, and 
Mackean slender. It appeared that the latter had en- 
gaged Buchanan in writing, then suddenly clapped one 
hand on his eyes, and struck the fatal blow with the 
other. The throat of the deceased was cut through his 
handkerchief to the back bone of the neck, against which 
the razor was hacked in several places." 

In his pursuit of his German studies, Scott acquired, 
about this time, a very important assistant in Mr. Skene 
of Eubislaw, in Aberdeenshire — a gentleman consider- 
ably his junior,^ who had just returned to Scotland from 
a residence of several years in Saxony, where he had 
obtained a thorough knowledge of the language, and ac- 
cumulated a better collection of German books than any 
to which Scott had, as yet, found access. Shortly after 
Mr. Skene's arrival in Edinburgh, Scott requested to be 
introduced to him by a mutual friend, Mr. Edmonstone 
of Newton; and their fondness for the same literature, 
with Scott's eagerness to profit by his new acquaintance's 
superior attainment in it, thus opened an intercourse 
which general similarity of tastes, and I venture to add, 
in many of the most important features of character, soon 
ripened into the familiarity of a tender friendship — "An 
intimacy," Mr. Skene says, in a paper before me, "of 
which I shall ever think with so much pride — a friend- 
ship so pure and cordial as to have been able to with- 
stand all the vicissitudes of nearly forty years, without 
ever having sustained even a casual chill from unkind 
thought or word." Mr. Skene adds, "During the whole 
progress of his varied life, to that eminent station which 
he could not but feel he at length held in the estimation, 
not of his countrymen alone, but of the whole world, I 
never could perceive the slightest shade of variance from 
that simplicity of character with which he impressed me 
on the first hour of our meeting."* 

1 [James Skene, son of George Skene of Rubislaw, was bom in 1775.] 
' [Beside the memoranda placed by Mr. Skene in Lockhart's hands and 


Among the common tastes which served to knit these 
friends together was their love of horsemanship, in which, 
as in all other manly exercises, Skene highly excelled; 
and the fears of a French invasion becoming every day 
more serious, their thoughts were turned with correspond- 
ing zeal to the project of organizing a force of mounted 
volunteers in Scotland. "The London Light Horse had 
set the example," says Mr. Skene; "but in truth it was 
to Scott's ardor that this force in the North owed its 
origin. Unable, by reason of his lameness, to serve 
amongst his friends on foot, he had nothing for it but 
to rouse the spirit of the moss-trooper, with which he 
readily inspired all who possessed the means of substitut- 
ing the sabre for the musket." 

On the 14th February, 1797, these friends and many 
more met and drew up an offer to serve as a body of vol- 
unteer cavalry in Scotland ; which ofEer being transmitted 
through the Duke of Buccleuch, Lord-Lieutenant of 
Mid-Lothian, was accepted by Government. The or- 
ganization of the corps proceeded rapidly; they extended 
their offer to serve in any part of the island in case of 
invasion ; and this also being accepted, the whole arrange- 
ment was shortly completed ; when Charles Maitland of 
Eankeillor was elected Major-Commandant; (Sir) Wil- 
liam Eae of St. Catharine's, Captain ; James Gordon of 
Craig, and George Eobinson of Clermiston, Lieutenants; 
(Sir) William Forbes of Pitsligo, and James Skene of 
Eubislaw, Cornets; Walter Scott, Paymaster, Quarter- 
master, and Secretary; John Adams, Adjutant. But 
the treble duties thus devolved on Scott were found to 
interfere too severely with his other avocations, and Colin 
Mackenzie of Portmore relieved him soon afterwards 
from those of paymaster. 

used by him in various portions of the ii/e, the friend's unpublished Remir 
niscences, from which Mr. Douglas has fortunately been enabled to draw 
largely in annotating the Journal, contain recollections of peculiar inter- 

240 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 25 

"The part of quartermaster," says Mr. Skene, "was 
purposely selected for him, that he might be spared the 
rough usage of the ranks; but, notwithstanding his in- 
firmity, he had a remarkably firm seat on horseback, and 
in all situations a fearless one: no fatigue ever seemed 
too much for him, and his zeal and animation served to 
sustain the enthusiasm of the whole corps, while his 
ready ' mot a rire ' kept up, in all, a degree of good- . 
humor and relish for the service, without which the toil 
and privations of long daily drills would not easily have 
been submitted to by such a body of gentlemen. At 
every interval of exercise, the order, sit at ease, was the 
signal for the quartermaster to lead the squadron to mer- 
riment ; every eye was intuitively turned on ' Earl Wal- 
ter,' as he was familiarly called by his associates of that 
date, and his ready joke seldom failed to raise the ready 
laugh. He took his full share in all the labors and duties 
of the corps, had the highest pride in its progress and 
proficiency, and was such a trooper himself as only a very 
powerful frame of body and the warmest zeal in the cause 
could have enabled any one to be. But his habitual 
good-humor was the great charm, and at the daily mess 
(for we all dined together when in quarters) that reigned 

£^arl Walter's first charger, by the way, was a tall 
and powerful animal, named Lenore. These daily drills 
appear to have been persisted in during the spring and 
summer of 1797; the corps spending moreover some 
weeks in quarters at Musselburgh. The majority of the 
troop having professional duties to attend to, the ordi- 
nary hour for drill was five in the morning; and when 
we reflect, that after some hours of hard work in this 
way, Scott had to produce himself regularly in the Par- 
liament House with gown and wig, for the space of four 
or five hours at least, while his chamber practice, though 
still humble, was on the increase — and that he had 
found a plentiful source of new social engagements in his 

1797 NOTE-BOOK 241 

troop connections — it certainly could have excited no 
surprise had his literary studies been found suffering 
total intermission during this busy period. That such 
was not the case, however, his correspondence and note- 
books afford ample evidence. 

He had no turn, at this time of his life, for early ris- 
ing; so that the regular attendance at the morning drills 
was of itself a strong evidence of his military zeal; but 
he must have, in spite of them, and of all other circum- 
stances, persisted in what was the usual custom of all his 
earlier life, namely, the devotion of the best hours of the 
night to solitary study. In general, both as a young 
man, and in more advanced age, his constitution required 
a good allowance of sleep, and he, on principle, indulged 
in it, saying^ "He was but half a man if he had not full 
seven hours of utter unconsciousness ; " but his whole 
mind and temperament were, at this period, in a state of 
most fervent exaltation, and spirit triumphed over mat- 
ter. His translation of Steinberg's Otho of Wittelsbach 
is marked "1796-7;" from which, I conclude, it was 
finished in the latter year. The volume containing that 
of Meier's Wolfred of Dromberg, a drama of Chivalry, 
is dated 1797 ; and, I think, the reader will presently see 
cause to suspect, that though not alluded to in his imper- 
fect note-book, these tasks must have been accomplished 
in the very season of the daily drills. 

The letters addressed to him in March, April, and 
June, by Kerr of Abbotrule, George Chalmers, and his 
uncle at Rosebank, indicate his unabated interest in the 
collection of coins and ballads; and I shall now make 
a few extracts from his private note-book, some of which 
will at all events amuse the survivors of the Edinburgh 
Light Horse : — 

''March 15, 1797. —Eead Stanfield's trial, and the 
conviction appears very doubtful indeed. Surely no one 
could seriously believe, in 1688, that the body of the 

242 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 25 

murdered bleeds at the touch of the murderer, and I see 
little else that directly touches Philip Stanfield. He was 
a very bad character, however; and tradition says, that 
having insulted Welsh, the wild preacher, one day in 
his early life, the saint called from the pulpit that God 
had revealed to him that this blasphemous youth would 
die in the sight of as many as were then assembled. It 
was believed at the time that Lady Stanfield had a hand 
in the assassination, or was at least privy to her son's 
plans; but I see nothing inconsistent with the old gentle- 
man's having committed suicide.^ The ordeal of touching 
the corpse was observed in Germany. They call it har- 

''March 27. — 

'The friers of FaU ^ 

Gat never owre hard eggs, or owre thin kale ; 
For they made their eggs thiu wi' butter, 
And their kale thick wi' bread. 
And the friers of Fail they made gude kale 
On Fridays when they fasted ; 
They never wanted gear enough 
As lang as their neighbours' lasted.' 

"Fairy-rings. — iV. S. Delrius says the same appear- 
ance occurs wherever the witches have held their Sab- 

"For the ballad of ' Willie's lady,' compare Apuleius, 
lib. i. p. 33. . . . 

''April 20. — The portmanteau to contain the follow- 
ing articles: 2 shirts; 1 black handkerchief; 1 night- 
cap, woollen; 1 pair pantaloons, blue; 1 flannel shirt 
with sleeves; 1 pair flannel drawers; 1 waistcoat; 1 pair 
worsted stockings or socks. 

"In the slip, in cover of portmanteau, a case with 
shaving-things, combs, and a knife, fork, and spoon; a 
German pipe and tobacco-bag, flint, and steel; pipe-clay 

^ See particulars of Stanfield's case in Lord Fountainhall's Chronological 
Notes of Scottish Affairs, 1680-1701, edited by Sir Walter Scott. 4to, 
Edinburgh, 1822. Ff. 283-236. 

1797 NOTE-BOOK 243 

and oil, with brush for laying it on ; a shoe-brush ; a pair 
of shoes or hussar-boots ; a horse-pieker, and other loose 

"Belt with the flap and portmanteau, currycomb, 
brush, and mane-comb, with sponge. 

"Over the portmanteau, the blue overalls, and a spare 
jacket for stable; a small horse-sheet, to cover the horse's 
back with, and a spare girth or two. 

"In the cartouche-box, screw-driver and picker for 
pistol, with three or four spare flints. 

"The horse-sheet may be conveniently folded below 
the saddle, and will save the back in a long march or 
bad weather. Beside the holster, two forefeet shoes.^ 

'■'■May 22. — Apuleius, lib. ii. . . . Anthony -a-Wood. 
. . . Mr. Jenkinson's name (now Lord Liverpool) being 
proposed as a difficult one to rhyme to, a lady present hit 
ofE this verse extempore. — N. B. Both father and son 
(Lord Hawkesbury) have a peculiarity of vision : — 

' Happy Mr. Jenkinson, 
Happy Mr. Jenkinson, 
I 'm sure to you 
Tour lady 's true, 
For you have got a winking son.' 
"23. — Delrius. . . . 
" 24 — ' I, John Bell of Brackenbrig, lies under this stane ; 

1 Some of Seott's most intimate friends at the Bar, partly, no douht, 
from entertaining political opinions of another caste, were by no means 
disposed to sympathize with the demonstrations of his military enthusi- 
asm at this period. For ezam.ple, one of these gentlemen thus writes to 
another in April, 1797 : " By the way, Scott is become the merest trooper 
that ever was begotten by a drunken dragoon on his trull in a hay- 
loft. Kot an idea crosses his mind, or a word his lips, that has not an 

allusion to some d d instrument or CTolution of the Cavalry — ' Draw 

your swords — by single files to the right of front — to the left wheel — 
charge ! ' After all, he knows little more about wheels and charges than 
I do about the wheels of Ezekiel, or the King of Pelew about charges of 
horning on six: days' date. I saw them charge on Leith Walk a few days 
ago, and I can assure you it was by no means orderly proceeded. Clerk and 
I are continually obliged to open a six-pounder upon him in self-defence, 
but in spite of a temporary confusion, he soon rallies and returns to the 

244 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 25 

Pour of my sons laid it on my wame. 
I was man of my meat, and master of my wife, 
And lived in mine ain house without meikle strife. 
Grif thou be'st a better man in thy time than I was in mine, 
Tak this stane o£B my wame, and lay it upon thine.' 
" 25. — Meric Casaubon on Spirits. . . . 
" 26. — ' There saw we learned Maroe's golden tombe ; 
The way he cut an EngUsh mile in length 
Thorow a rook of stone in one night's space.' 

"Christopher Marlowe's Tragical! History of Dr. 
Faustus — a very remarkable thing. Grand subject — 
end grand. . . . Copied Prophecy of Merlin from Mr. 
Clerk's MS. 

■ "27. — Eead Everybody's Business is Nobody's Busi- 
ness, by Andrew Moreton. This was one of Defoe's 
many aliases — like his pen, in parts. . . . 

' To Cuthbert, Gar, and Collingwood, to Shafto and to Hall ; 
To every gallant generous heart that for King James did fall.' 

"28. — . . . Anthony-a-Wood. . . . Plain Proof of 
the True Father and Mother of the Pretended Prince 
of Wales, by W. Fuller. This fellow was pilloried for 
a forgery some years later. . . . Began Nathan der 

"June 29. — Bead Introduction to a Compendium on 
Brief Examination, by W. S. — viz., "William Stafford 
— though it was for a time given to no less a W. S. than 
William Shakespeare. A curious treatise — the Political 
Economy of the Elizabethan Day — worth reprinting. . . . 

"July 1. — Eead Discourse of Military Discipline, by 
Captain Barry — a very curious account of the famous 
Low Countries-armies — full of military hints worth note. 
. . . Anthony Wood again. 

"3. — Nathan deir Weise. . . . Delrius. . . . 

"6. — Geutenberg's Braut begun. 

"6. — The Bride again. Delrius." 

The note-book from which I have been copying is 
chiefly filled with extracts from Apuleius and Anthony-a- 

1797 TOUR TO THE LAKE^ 245 

Wood — most of them bearing, in some way, on the sub- 
ject of popular superstitions. It is a pity that many 
leaves have been torn out; for if unmutilated, the record 
would probably have enabled one to guess whether he 
had already, planned his Essay on Fairies. 

I have mentioned his business at the Bar as increasing 
at the same time. tLia foe-booh is now before me, and it 
shows that he made by his first year's practice ,£24 3s. ; 
by the second, £57 15s. ; by the third, £84 4s. ; by the 
fourth, £90 ; and in his fifth year at the Bar — that is, 
from November, 1796 to July, 1797 — £144 10s.; of 
which £50 were fees from his father's chamber. 

His friend, Charles Kerr of Abbotrule, had been resid- 
ing a good deal about this time in Cumberland: indeed, 
he was so enraptured with the scenery of the lakes, as to 
take a house in Keswick with the intention of spending 
half of all future years there. His letters to Scott 
(March, April, 1797) abound in expressions of wonder 
that he should continue to devote so much of his vaca- 
tions to the Highlands of Scotland, "with every crag and 
precipice of which," says he, "I should imagine you 
would be familiar by this time ; nay, that the goats them- 
selves might almost claim you for an acquaintance ; " while 
another district lay so near him, at least as well qualified 
"to give a swell to the fancy." 

After the rising of the Court of Session in July, Scott 
accordingly set out on a tour to the English lakes, ac- 
companied by his brother John, and Adam Ferguson. 
Their first stage was Halyards in Tweeddale, then inhab- 
ited by his friend's father, the philosopher and historian ; 
and they stayed there for a day or two, in the course of 
which Scott had his first and only interview with David 
Kitchie, the original of his Black Dwarf. ^ Proceeding 
southwards, the tourists visited Carlisle, Penrith, — the 
vale of the Eamont, including Mayburgh and Brougham 
Castle, — Ullswater and Windermere; and at length 
' See the Introdaction to this novel in the edition of 1830. 

246 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 26 

fixed their headquarters at the then peaceful and seques- 
tered little watering-place of Gilsland, making excur- 
sions from thence to the various scenes of romantic inter- 
est which are commemorated in The Bridal of Triermain, 
and otherwise leading very much the sort of life depicted 
among the loungers of St. Eonan's Well. Scott was, on 
his first arrival in Gilsland, not a little engaged with the 
beauty of one of the young ladies lodged under the same 
roof with him ; and it was on occasion of a visit in her 
company to some part of the Boman Wall that he indited 
his lines — 

" Take these flowers, which, pnrple waving, 
On the ruined rampart grew," eto.^ 

But this was only a passing glimpse of flirtation. A 
week or so afterwards commenced a more serious affair. 

Biding one day with Ferguson, they met, some miles 
from Gilsland, a young lady taking the air on horseback, 
whom neither of them had previously remarked, and 
whose appearance instantly struck both so much that 
they kept her in view until they had satisfied themselves 
that she also was one of the party at Gilsland. The 
same evening there was a ball, at which Captain Scott 
produced himself in his regimentals, and Ferguson also 
thought proper to be equipped in the uniform of the 
Edinburgh Volunteers. There was no little rivalry 
among the young travellers as to who should first get 
presented to the unknown beauty of the morning's ride; 
but though both the gentlemen in scarlet had the advan- 
tage of being dancing partners, their friend succeeded in 
handing the fair stranger to supper — and such was his 
first introduction to Charlotte Margaret Carpenter. 

Without the features of a regular beauty, she was rich 
in personal attractions; "a form that was fashioned as 
light as a fay's ; " a complexion of the clearest and light- 

^ I owe this circnmstance to the recollection of Mr. Claud Russell, 
accountant in Edinburgh, who was one of the party. Previously I had 
always supposed these verses to have been inspired by Miss Carpenter, 


est olive ; eyes large, deep-set and dazzling, of the finest 
Italian brown; and a profusion of silken tresses, black 
as the raven's wing; her address hovering between the 
reserve of a pretty young Englishwoman who has not 
mingled largely in general society, and a certain natural 
archness and gayety that suited well with the accompani- 
ment of a French accent. A lovelier vision, as all who 
remember her in the bloom of her days have assured me, 
could hardly have been imagined; and from that hour 
the fate of the young poet was fixed. ^ 

She was the daughter of Jean Charpentier, of Lyons, 
a devoted royalist, who held an office under Government,^ 
and Charlotte Volere, his wife. She and her only bro- 
ther, Charles Charpentier, had been educated in the 
Protestant religion of their mother ; and when their father 
died, which occurred in the beginning of the Kevolution, 
Madame Charpentier made her escape with her children, 
first to Paris, and then to England, where they found 
a warm friend and protector in the late Marquis of 
Downshire, who had, in the course of his travels in 
France, formed an intimate acquaintance with the family, 
and, indeed, spent some time under their roof. M. 
Charpentier had, in his first alarm as to the coming Rev- 
olution, invested £4000 in English securities — part in 
a mortgage upon Lord Downshire's estates. On "the 
mother's death, which occurred soon after her arrival in 
London, this nobleman took on himself the character of 
sole guardian to her children; and Charles Charpentier 
received in due time, through his interest, an appoint- 

^ [" Ton may perhaps have remarked Miss Carpenter at a Carlisle ball, 
but more likely not, as her figure is not very frappant. A smart-looking 
little girl with dark brown hair would probably be her portrait if drawn 
by an indifFerent hand. But I, you may believe, should make a piece of 
work of my sketch, as little like the original as Hercules to me." — Scott 
to P. Murray, December, 1797. — Familiar Letters, vol. i. p. 10.] 

^ In several deeds which I have seen, M. Charpentier is designed 
" Ecnyer du Eoi ; " one of those purchasable ranks peculiar to the latter 
stages of the old French Monarchy. What the post he held was, I never 

248 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 26 

ment in the service o£ the East India Company, in 
which he had hy this time risen to the lucrative situation 
of Commercial Kesident at Salem. His sister was now 
making a little excursion, under the care of the lady who 
had superintended her education. Miss Jane Nicolson, 
a daughter of Dr. Nicolson, Dean of Exeter, and grand- 
daughter of William Nicolson, Bishop of Carlisle, well 
known as the editor of The English Historical Library. 
To some connections which the learned prelate's family 
had ever since his time kept up in the diocese of Carlisle, 
Miss Carpenter owed the direction of her summer tour. 

Scott's father was now in a very feeble state of health, 
which accounts for his first announcement of this affair 
being made in a letter to his mother; it is undated; — 
but by this time the young lady had left Gilsland for 
Carlisle, where she remained until her destiny was set- 


My dear Mother, — I should very ill deserve the 
care and affection with which you have ever regarded 
me, were I to neglect my duty so far as to omit consult- 
ing my father and you in the most important step which 
I can possibly take in life, and upon the success of which 
my future happiness must depend. It is with pleasure I 
think that I can avail myself of your advice and instruc- 
tions in an affair of so great importance as that which 
I have at present on my hands. You will probably guess 
from this preamble that I am engaged in a matrimonial 
plan, which is really the case. Though my acquaintance 
with the young lady has not been of long standing, this 
circumstance is in some degree counterbalanced by the 
intimacy in which we have lived, and by the opportuni- 
ties which that intimacy has afforded me of remarking 
her conduct and sentiments on many different occasions, 
some of which were rather of a delicate nature, so that in 
fact I have seen more of her during the few weeks we 


have been together than I could have done after a much 
longer acquaintance, shackled by the common forms of 
ordinary life. You will not expect from me a descrip- 
tion of her person — for which I refer you to my brother, 
as also for a fuller account of all the circumstances at- 
tending the business than can be comprised in the com- 
pass of a letter. Without flying into raptures, for I 
must assure you that my judgment as well as my affec- 
tions are consulted upon this occasion — without flying 
into raptures, then, I may safely assure you that her 
temper is sweet and cheerful, her understanding good, 
and, what I know will give you pleasure, her principles 
of religion very serious. I have been very explicit with 
her upon the nature of my expectations, and she thinks 
she can accommodate herself to the situation which I 
should wish her to hold in society as my wife, which, 
you will easily comprehend, I mean should neither be 
extravagant nor degrading. Her fortune, though partly 
dependent upon her brother, who is high in office at 
Madras, is very considerable — at present £500 a year. 
This, however, we must, in some degree, regard as pre- 
carious — I mean to the full extent; and indeed, when 
you know her, you will not be surprised that I regard 
this circumstance chiefly because it removes those pru- 
dential considerations which would otherwise render our 
union impossible for the present. Betwixt her income 
and my own professional exertions, I have little doubt 
we will be enabled to hold the rank in society which my 
family and situation entitle me to fill. 

My dear mother, I cannot express to you the anxiety 
I have that you will not think me flighty nor inconsider- 
ate in this business. Believe me, that experience, in 
one instance — you cannot fail to know to what I allude 
— is too recent to permit my being so hasty in my con- 
clusions as the warmth of my temper might have other- 
wise prompted. I am also most anxious that you should 
be prepared to show her kindness, which I know the 

250 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 26 

goodness of your own heart will prompt, more especially 
when I tell you that she is an orphan, without relations, 
and almost without friends. Her guardian is — I should 
say was, for she is of age — Lord Downshire, to whmn I 
must write for his consent, — a piece of respect to which 
he is entitled for his care of her, — and there the matter 
rests at present. I think I need not tell you that if 
I assume the new character which I threaten, I shall be 
happy to find that in that capacity I may make myself 
more useful to my brothers, and especially to Anne, than 
I could in any other. On the other hand, I shall cer- 
tainly expect that my friends will endeavor to show every 
attention in their power to a woman who forsakes for me 
prospects much more splendid than what I can offer, and 
who comes into Scotland without a single friend but my- 
self. I find I could write a great deal more upon this 
subject, but as it is late, and as I must write to my fa- 
ther, I shall restrain myself. I think (but you are best 
judge) that in the circumstances in which I ' stand, you 
should write to her, Miss Carpenter, under cover to me 
at Carlisle. 

Write to me very fully upon this important subject — 
send me your opinion, your advice, and, above all, your 
blessing; you will see the necessity of not delaying a 
minute in doing so, and in keeping this business strictly 
private, till you hear farther from me, since you are not 
ignorant that even at this advanced period an objection 
on the part of Lord Downshire, or many other accidents, 
may intervene; .in which case, I should little wish my 
disappointment to be public. 

Believe me, my dear Mother, 

Ever your dutiful and affectionate son, 

Walter Scott. 

Scott remained in Cumberland until the Jedburgh 
assizes recalled him to his legal duties. On arriving in 
that town, he immediately sent for his friend Shortreed, 


whose mmiorandum records that the evening of the 30th 
September, 1797, was one of the most joyous he ever 
spent. "Scott," he says, "was aair beside himself about 
Miss Carpenter; — we toasted her twenty times over — 
and sat together, he raving about her, until it was one in 
the morning." He soon returned to Cumberland; and 
the following letters will throw light on the character and 
conduct Qf the parties, and on the nature of the difficul- 
ties which were presented by the prudence and prejudices 
of the young advocate's family connections. It appears, 
that at one stage of the business, Scott had seriously con- 
templated leaving the Bar at Edinburgh, and establish- 
ing himself with his bride (I know not in what capacity) 
in one of the colonies. 


Cablisle, October 4, 1797. 

It is only an hour since I received Lord Downshire's 
letter. You will say, I hope, that I am indeed very 
good to write so soon, but I almost fear that all my good- 
ness can never carry me through all this plaguy writing. 
Lord Downshire will be happy to hear from you. He is 
the very best man on earth — his letter is kind and affec- 
tionate, and full of advice, much in the style of your last. 
I am to consult most carefully my heart. Do you believe 
I did not do it when I gave you my consent? It is true, 
I don't like to reflect on that subject. I am afraid. It 
is very awful to think it is for life. How can I ever 
laugh after such tremendous thoughts? I believe never 
more. I am hurt to find that your friends don't think 
the match a prudent one. If it is not agreeable to them 
all, you must then forget me, for I have too much pride 
to think of connecting myself in a family were I not 
equal to them. Pray, my dear sir, write to Lord D. im- 
mediately — explain yourself to him as you would to me, 
and he will, I am sure, do all he can to serve us. If 

252 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 26 

you really love me, you must love him, and write to him 
as you would to a friend. 

Adieu, — au plaisir de vous revoir bientot. 

C. C. 


Sblkiek, 8th October, 1797. 
Deab Bob, — This day a long train of anxieties was 
put an end to by a letter from Lord Downshire, couched 
in the most flattering terms, giving his consent to my 
marriage with his ward. I am thus far on my way to 
Carlisle — only for a visit — because, betwixt her reluc- 
tance to an immediate marriage and the imminent ap- 
proach of the session, I am afraid I shall be thrown back 
to the Christmas holidays. I shall be home in about 
eight days. 

Ever yours sincerely, 

W. Scorr. 


Has it never happened to you, my dear Miss Christy, 
in the course of your domestic economy, to meet with a 
drawer stufEed so very, so extremely full, that it was very 
difficult to pull it open, however desirous you might be 
to exhibit its contents? In case this miraculous event 
has ever taken place, you may somewhat conceive from 
thence the cause of my silence, which has really proceeded 
from my having a very great deal to communicate; so 
much so, that I really hardly know how to begin. As 
for my affection and friendship for you, believe me sin- 
cerely, they neither slumber nor sleep, and it is only your 
suspicions of their drowsiness which incline me to write 
at this period of a business highly interesting to me, 
rather than when I could have done so with something 
like certainty — Hem ! Hem ! It must come out at once 
— I am in a very fair way of being married to a very 


amiable young woman, with wLom I formed an attach- 
ment in the course of my tour. She was born in France 
— her parents were of English extraction — the name 
Carpenter. She was left an orphan early in life, and edu- 
cated in England, and is at present under the care of a 
Miss Nicolson, a daughter of the late Dean of Exeter, 
who was on a visit to her relations in Cumberland. Miss 
Carpenter is of age, but as she lies under great obliga- 
tions to the Marquis of Downshire, who was her guar- 
dian, she cannot take a step of such importance without 
his consent — and I daily expect his final answer upon 
the subject. Her fortune is dependent, in a great mea- 
sure, upon an only and very affectionate brother. He is 
Commercial Besident at Salem in India, and has settled 
upon her an annuity of £500. Of her personal accom- 
plishments I shall only say that she possesses very good 
sense, with uncommon good temper, which I have seen 
put to most severe trials. I must bespeak your kindness 
and friendship for her. You may easily believe I shall 
rest very much both upon Miss K. and you for giving 
her the carte de pays, when she comes to Edinburgh. I 
may give you a hint that there is no romance in her com- 
position — and that, though born in France, she has the 
sentiments and manners of an Englishwoman, and does 
not like to be thought otherwise. A very slight tinge in 
her pronunciation is all which marks the foreigner. She 
is at present at Carlisle, where I shall join her as soon 
as our arrangements are finally made. Some difficulties 
have occurred in settling matters with my father, owing 
to certain prepossessions which you can easily conceive 
his adopting. One main article was the uncertainty of 
her provision, which has been in part removed by the 
safe arrival of her remittances for this year, with assur- 
ances of their being regular and even larger in future, 
her brother's situation being extremely lucrative. An- 
other objection was her birth: "Can any good thing 
come out of Nazareth?" but as it was birth merely and 

254 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 26 

soldy, this has been abandoned. You will be more in- 
terested about other points regarding her, and I can only 
say that — though our acquaintance was shorter than 
ever I could have thought of forming such a connection 
upon — it was exceedingly close, and gave me full oppor- 
tunities for observation — and if I had parted with her, 
it must have been forever, which both parties began to 
think would be a disagreeable thing. She has conducted 
herself through the whole business with so much propriety 
as to make a strong impression in her favor upon the 
minds of my father and mother, prejudiced as they were 
against her, from the circumstances I have mentioned. 
We shall be your neighbors in the New Town, and in- 
tend to live very quietly; Charlotte will need many les- 
sons from Miss K. in housewifery. Pray show this letter 
to Miss E. with my very best compliments. Nothing can 
now stand in the way except Lord Downshire, who may 
not think the match a prudent one for Miss C. ; but he 
will surely think her entitled to judge for herseK at her 
age, in what she would wish to place her happiness. 
She is not a beauty, by any means, but her person and 
face are very engaging. She is a brunette ; her manners 
are lively, but when necessary she can be very serious. 
She was baptized and educated a Protestant of the 
Church of England. I think I have now said enough 
upon this subject. Do not write till you hear from me 
again, which will be when all is settled. I wish this im- 
portant event may hasten your return to town. I send 
a goblin story, with best compliments to the misses, and 
ever am, yours affectionately, Waltee Scott. ' 


(The Erl-King is a goblin that hautUs the Black Forest in Thuringia. — 
To be read by a caitdle particularly long in the snuff.) 

O, who rides by niglt thro' the woodland so wild ? 
It is the fond father embracing his child ; 

1 From the German of Goethe. 

1797 THE ERL-KING 255 

And close the boy nestles within his loved arm, 
To hold himself fast, and to keep himself warm. 

" father, see yonder I see yonder ! " he says. 

" My boy, upon what doest thou fearfully gaze ? " — 

O, 't is the Erl-King with his crown and his shroud." — 
"No, my son, it is but a dark wreath of the cloud." 

(The Erl-Eing speaks.) 
" O, come and go with me, thou loveliest child ; 
By many a gay sport shall thy time be beguiled j 
My mother keeps for thee f uU many a fair toy. 
And many a fine flower shall she pluck for my boy." 

" O father, my father, and did you not hear 

The Erl-King whisper so low in my ear ? " 
" Be still, my heart's darling — my child, be at ease ; 

It was but the wUd blast as it sung thro' the trees." 

" O wilt thou go with me, thou loveliest boy ? 
My daughter shall tend thee with care and with joy ; 
She shall bear thee so lightly thro' wet and thro' wUd, 
And press thee, and kiss thee, and sing to my child." 

" O father, my father, and saw you not plain 
The Erl-King's pale daughter glide past thro' the rain ? " — 

" O yes, my loved treasure, I knew it full soon ; 
It was the gray willow that danced to the moon.'' 

" O, come and go with me, no longer delay. 

Or else, silly child, I will drag thee away. " — 
" O father ! father ! now, now keep your hold. 

The Erl-King has seized me — his grasp is so cold 1 " 

Sore trembled the father ; he spun^'d thro' the wild. 
Clasping close to his bosom his shuddering child ; 
He reaches his dwelling in doubt and in dread, 
But, clasp'd to his bosom, the infant was dead I 

You see I have not altogether lost the faculty of rhym- 
ing. I assure you, there is no small impudence in at- 
tempting a version of that ballad, as it has been translated 
by Lewis. — AU good things be with you. W. S. 

256 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 26 


London, Oototer 15, 1797. 
Sm, — I received your letter with pleasure, instead of 
considering it as an intrusion. One thing more being 
fully stated would have made it perfectly satisfactory, 
— namely, the sort of income you immediately possess, 
and the sort of maintenance Miss Carpenter, in case of 
your demise, might reasonably expect. Though she is 
of an age to judge for herself in the choice of an object 
that she would like to run the race of life with, she has 
referred the subject to me. As her friend and guardian, 
I in duty must try to secure her happiness, by endeavor- 
ing to keep her comfortable immediately, and to prevent 
her being left destitute, in case of any unhappy contin- 
gency. Her good sense and good education are her chief 
fortune; therefore, in the worldly way of talking, she is 
not entitled to much. Her brother, who was also left 
under my care at an early period, is excessively fond of 
her; he has no person to think of but her as yet; and 
will certainly be enabled to make her very handsome pre- 
sents, as he is doing very well in India, where I sent him 
some years ago, and where he bears a very high charac- 
ter, I am happy to say. I do not throw out this to induce 
you to make any proposal beyond what prudence and dis- 
cretion recommend ; but I hope I shall hear from you by 
return of post, as I may be shortly called out of town to 
some distance. As children are in general the conse- 
quence of an happy union, I should wish to know what 
may be your thoughts or wishes upon that subject. I 
trust you will not think me too particular ; indeed I am 
sure you will not, when you consider that I am endeavor- 
ing to secure the happiness and welfare of an estimable 
young woman whom you admire and profess to be partial 
and attached to, and for whom I have the highest regard, 
esteem, and respect. 

I am. Sir, your obedient humble servant, 




Cabusle, October 22. 
Your last letter, my dear sir, contains a very fine train 
of perhaps, and of so many pretty conjectures, that it is 
not flattering you to say you excel in the art of torment- 
ing yourself. As it happens, you are quite wrong in all 
your suppositions. I have been waiting for Lord D.'s 
answer to your letter, to give a full answer to your very 
proper inquiries about my family. Miss Nicolson says, 
that when she did offer to give you some information, 
you refused it — and advises me now to wait for Lord 
D.'s letter. Don't believe I have been idle; I have been 
writing very long letters to him, and all about you. How 
can you think that I will give an answer about the house 
until I hear from London? — that is quite impossible; 
and I believe you are a little out of your senses to imag- 
ine I can be in Edinburgh before the twelfth of next 
month. O, my dear sir, no — you must not think of it 
this great while. I am much flattered by your mother's 
remembrance ; present my respectful compliments to her. 
You don't mention your father in your last anxious letter 
— I hope he is better. I am expecting every day to hear 
from my brother. You may tell your uncle he is Com- 
mercial Eesident at Salem. He will And the name of 
Charles C. in his India list. My compliments to Cap- 
tain Scott. Sans adieu, C. C. 


Cabuslb, October 25. 
Indeed, Mr. Scott, I am by no means pleased with all 
this writing. I have told you how much I dislike it, and 
yet you still persist in asking me to write, and that by 
return of post. O, you really are quite out of your 
senses. I should not have indulged you in that whim of 
yours, had you not given me that hint that my silence 
gives an air of mystery. I have no reason that can 

258 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 26 

detain me in acquainting you that my father and mother 
were French, of the name of Charpentier; he had a place 
under government ; their residence was at Lyons, where 
you would find on inquiries that they lived in good re- 
pute and in very good style. I had the misfortune of 
losing my father before I could know the value of such 
a parent. At his death we were left to the care of Lord 
D., who was his very great friend; and very soon after 
I had the affliction of losing my mother. Our taking the 
name of Carpenter was on my brother's going to India, 
to prevent any little difficulties that might have occurred. 
I hope now you are pleased. Lord D. could have given 
you every information, as he has been acquainted with 
all my family. You say you almost love him ; but until 
your almost comes to a quite, I cannot love you. Before 
I conclude this famous epistle, I will give you a little 
hint — that is, not to put so many musts in your letters — 
it is beginning rather too soon; and another thing is, 
that I take the liberty not to mind them much, but I 
expect you mind me. You must take care of yourself; 
you must think of me, and believe me yours sincerely, 

C. C. 


Cabliecle, October 26. 
I have only a minute before the post goes, to assure 
you, my dear sir, of the welcome reception of the 
stranger.^ The very great likeness to a friend of mine 
will endear him to me ; he shall be my constant compan- 
ion, but I wish he could give me an answer to a thousand 
questions I have to make — one in particular, what rea- 
son have you for so many fears you express? Have your 
friends changed? Pray let me know the truth — they 
perhaps don't like me being French. Do write imme- 
diately — let it be in better spirits. Et croyez-moi tou- 
jours votre sincere C. C. 

^ A mimatme of Scott. 



October 31. 
. . . All your apprehensions about your friends make 
me very uneasy. At your father's age, prejudices are 
not easily overcome — old people have, you know, so 
much more wisdom and experience, that we must be 
guided by them. If he has an objection on my being 
French, I excuse him with all my heart, as I don't love 
them myself. O how all these things plague me ! — when 
will it end? And to complete the matter, you talk of 
going to the West Indies. I am certain your father and 
uncle say you are a hot heady young man, quite mad, 
and I assure you I join with them ; and I must believe, 
that when you have such an idea, you have then deter- 
mined to think no more of me. I begin to repent of 
having accepted your picture. I will send it hack again, 
if you ever think again about the West Indies. Your 
family then would love me very much — to forsake them 
for a stranger, a person who does not possess half the 
charms and good qualities that you imagine. I think I 
hear your uncle calling you a hot heady young man. I 
am certain of it, and I am generally right in my conjec- 
tures. What does your sister say about it? I suspect 
that she thinks on the matter as I should do, with fears 
and anxieties for the happiness of her brother. If it be 
proper, and you think it would be acceptable, present my 
best compliments to your mother; and to my old acquaint- 
ance Captain Scott I beg to be remembered. This even- 
ing is the first ball — don't you wish to be of our party? 
I guess your answer — it would give me infinite pleasure. 
En attendant le plaisir de vous revoir, je suis toujours 
votre constante Chaelotte. 


The Castle, Hartfobd, October 29, 1797. 
SiE, — I received the favor of your letter. It was so 
manly, honorable, candid, and so full of good sense, that 

26o SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 26 

I think Miss Carpenter's friends cannot in any way ob- 
ject to the union you propose. Its taking place, when 
or where, will depend upon herself, as I shall write to 
her by this night's post. Any provision that may be 
given to her by her brother, you will have settled upon 
her and her children; and I hope, with all my heart, that 
every earthly happiness may attend you both. I shall 
be always happy to hear it, and to subscribe myself your 
faithful friend and obedient humble servant, 


(on the same sheet.) 

CablisiiE, NoTember 4. 
Last night I received the enclosed for you from Lord 
Downshire. If it has your approbation, I shall be very 
glad to see you as soon as will be convenient. I have 
a thousand things to tell you ; but let me beg of you not 
to think for some time of a house. I am sure I can con- 
vince you of the propriety and prudence of waiting until 
your father will settle things more to your satisfaction, 
and until I have heard from my brother. You must be 
of my way of thinking. — Adieu. C. C. 

Scott obeyed this summons, and I suppose remained 
in Carlisle until the Court of Session met, which is al- 
ways on the 12th of November. 


Cabuble, Noyember 14, 
Your letter never could have come in a more favorable 
moment. Anything you could have said would have 
been well received. You surprise me much at the regret 
you express you had of leaving Carlisle. Indeed, I can't 
believe it was on my account, I was so uncommonly 
stupid. I don't know what could be the matter with me, 
I was so very low, and felt really ill : it was even a trou- 
ble to speak. The settling of our little plans — all 


looked so much in earnest — that I began reflecting more 
seriously than I generally do, or approve of. I don't 
think that very thoughtful people ever can be happy. 
As this is my maxim, adieu to all thoughts. I have 
made a determination of being pleased with everything, 
and with everybody in Edinburgh; a wise system for 
happiness, is it not? I enclose the lock. I have had 
almost all my hair cut off. Miss Nicolson has taken 
some, which she sends to London to be made to some- 
thing, but this you are not to know of, as she intends 
to present it to you. ... I am happy to hear of your 
father's being better pleased as to money matters ; it 
will come at last; don't let that trifle disturb you. 
Adieu, Monsieur. J'ai I'honneur d'etre votre tres hiun- 
ble et tres Ob^issante C. C. 

Caelisle, November 27. 
You have made me very triste all day. Pray never 
more complain of being poor. Are you not ten times 
richer than I am? Depend on yourself and your profes- 
sion. I have no doubt you will rise very high, and be 
a great rich man, but we should look down to be con- 
tented with our lot, and banish all disagreeable thoughts. 
We shall do very well. I am very sorry to hear you 
have such a had head. I hope I shall nurse away all 
your aches. I think you write too much. When I am 
mistress I shall not allow it. How very angry I should 
be with you if you were to part with Lenore. Do you 
really believe I should think it an unnecessary expense 
where your health and pleasure can be concerned? I 
have a better opinion of you, and I am very glad you 
don't give up the cavalry, as I love anything that is 
stylish. Don't forget to find a stand for the old car- 
riage, as I shall like to keep it, in case we should have 
to go any journey; it is so much more convenient than 
the post-chaises, and will do very well till we can keep 
our carriage. What an idea of yours was that to men- 

262 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 26 

tion where you wish to have your hones laid/^ If you 
were married, I should think you were tired of me. A 
very pretty compliment before marriage. I hope sin- 
cerely that I shall not live to see that day. If you always 
have those cheerful thoughts, how very pleasant and gay 
you must be. 

Adieu, my dearest friend. Take care of yourself if 
you love me, as I have no wish that you should visit that 
beautiful and romantic scene, the burying-place. Adieu, 
once more, and believe that you are loved very sincerely 
by C. C. 

December 10. 
If I could but really believe that my letter gave you 
only half the pleasure you express, I should almost think, 
my dearest Scott, that I should get very fond of writing 
merely for the pleasure to indulge you — that is saying 
a great deal. I hope you are sensible of the compliment 
I pay you, and don't expect I shall always be so pretty 
behaved. You may depend on me, my dearest friend, 
for fixing as early a day as I possibly can; and if it 
happens to be not quite so soon as you wish, you must 
not be angry with me. It is very unlucky you are such 
a bad housekeeper — as I am no better. I shall try. I 
hope to have very soon the pleasure of seeing you, and 
to tell you how much I love you; but I wish the first 
fortnight was over. With all my love, and those sort 
of pretty things — adieu. Chaklotte. 

' [" I had a visit from Mr. Halibnrton to-day, and asked him all about 
your brother, who was two years in his house. My father is Mr. Halibur- 
ton's relation and chief, as he represents a very old family of that name. 
When you go to the south of Scotland with me, you will see their bury- 
ing-place, now all that remains with my father of a very handsome 
property. It is one of the most beautiful and romantic scenes you ever 
saw, among the ruins of an old abbey. When I die, Charlotte, you must 
cause my bones to be laid there ; but we shall have many happy days be- 
fore that, I hope." — Scott to Miss Carpenter, November 22, 1797. — Fa- 
. miliar Letters, vol. i. p. 8.] 


jP. S. — Etudiez voire Fran^ais. Remember you are 
to teach me Italian in return, but I shall be but a stupid 
scholar. Aimez Charlotte. 

Cablisle, December 14. 

... I heard last night from my friends in London, 
and I shall certainly have the deed this week. I will 
send it to you directly ; but not to lose so much time, as 
you have been reckoning, I will prevent any little delay 
that might happen by the post, by fixing already next 
Wednesday for your coming here, and on Thursday the 
21st — Oh, my dear Scott, on that day I shall be yours 
forever. C. C. 

P. S. — Arrange it so that we shall see none of your 
family the night of our arrival. I shall be so tired, and 
such a fright, I should not be seen to advantage. 

To these extracts I may add the following from the 
first leaf of an old black-letter Bible at Abbotsf ord : — 

" Secundum morem majorwm hcec de familia Oualteri 
Scott, Jurisconsulti JEdinensis, in lihrwm hunc sacrum 
manu sua conscripta sunt. 

" Gualterus Scott, filius Gualteri Scott et Annce 
Rutherford, natus erat apud Edinam \hmo die Augusti, 
A. D. 1771. 

" Socius Facultatis Juri^icce Edinensis receptus erat 
llmo die Julii, A. d. 1792. 

"In ecclesiam Sanctce Marice apud Carlisle, uxorem 
duxit Margaretam Charlottam Carpenter, Jiliam quon- 
dam Joannis Charpentier et Charlottce Volere, Lug- 
dunensem, 24to die Decemhris, 1797."^ 

^ The account in the text of Miss Carpenter's ori^ has been, I am 
aware, both spoken and written of as an nncandid one : it had been ex- 
pected that eTcn in 1837 I would not pass in silence a rumor of early 
prevalence, which represented her and her brother as children of Lord 
Downshire by Madame Charpentier. I did not think it necessary to 
allude to this story while any of Sir Walter's own children were living ; 



and I presume it will be snffieient for me to say now, that neither I, nor, I 
firmly believe, any one of them, ever heard either from Sir Walter, or 
from his wife, or from Miss Kicolson (who sarrived them both) the slight- 
est hint as to the rumor in question. There is not an expression in the 
preserved correspondence between Scott, the young lady, and the Marquis, 
that gives it a shadow of countenance. Lastly, Lady Soott always kept 
hanging by her bedside, and repeatedly kissed in her dying moments, a 
miniature of her father which is now in my hands ; and it is the well- 
painted likeness of a handsome gentleman — but I am assured the fea- 
tures have no resemblance to Lord Downshire or any of the Hill family. 
— (1848.) 




Scott carried Ms bride to a lodging in George Street, 
Edinburgh ; a house which he had taken in South Castle 
Street not being quite prepared for her reception. The 
first fortnight, to which she had looked with such anxiety, 
was, I believe, more than sufficient to convince her hus- 
band's family that, however rashly he had formed the 
connection, she had the sterling qualities of a good wife. 
Notwithstanding the little leaning to the pomps and vani- 
ties of the world, which her letters have not concealed, 
she had made up her mind to find her happiness in better 
things; and so long as their circumstances continued 
narrow, no woman could have conformed herself to them 
with more of good feeling and good sense. Some habits, 
new in the quiet domestic circles of Edinburgh citizens, 
did not escape criticism; and in particular, I have heard 
herself, in her most prosperous days, laugh heartily at 
the remonstrances of her George Street landlady, when 
it was discovered that the southron lodger chose to sit 
usually, and not on high occasions merely, in her draw- 

266 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 26 

ing-room, — on which subject the mother-in-law was dis- 
posed to take the thrifty old-fashioned dame's side. 

I cannot fancy that Lady Scott's manners or ideas 
could ever have amalgamated very well with those of her 
husband's parents; but the feeble state of the old gentle- 
man's health prevented her from seeing them constantly; 
and without any afEectation of strict intimacy, they soon 
were, and always continued to be, very good friends. 
Anne Scott, the delicate sister to whom the Ashestiel 
Memoir alludes so tenderly, speedily formed a warm and 
sincere attachment for the stranger; but death, in a short 
time, carried off that interesting* creature, who seems to 
have had much of her brother's imaginative and romantic 
temperament, without his power of controlling it. 

Mrs. Scott's arrival was welcomed with unmingled 
delight by the brothers of the Mountain. The two ladies, 
who had formerly given life and grace to their society, 
were both recently married. We have seen Miss Er- 
skine's letter of farewell; and I have before me another 
not less affectionate, written when Miss Cranstoun gave 
her hand (a few months later) to Godfrey Wenceslaus, 
Count of FurgstaU, a nobleman of large possessions in 
Styria, who had been spending some time in Edinburgh. 
Scott's house in South Castle Street (soon after exchanged 
for one of the same sort in North Castle Street, which he 
purchased, and inhabited down to 1826) became now to 
the Mountain what Cranstoun's and Erskine's had been 
while their accomplished sisters remained with them. 
The officers of the Light Horse, too, established a club 
among themselves, supping once a week at each other's 
houses in rotation. The young lady thus found two 
somewhat different, but both highly agreeable circles ready 
to receive her with cordial kindness; and the evening 
hours passed in a round of innocent gayety, all the ar- 
rangements being conducted in a simple and inexpensive 
fashion, suitable to young people whose days were mostly 
laborious, and very few of their purses heavy. Scott 

1798 EDINBURGH 267 

and Erskine had always been fond of the theatre; the 
pretty bride was passionately so — and I doubt if they 
ever spent a week in Edinburgh without indulging them- 
selves in this amusement. But regular dinners and 
crowded assemblies were in those years quite unthought 
of. Perhaps nowhere could have been found a society 
on so small a scale including more of vigorous intellect, 
varied information, elegant tastes, and real virtue, affec- 
tion, and mutual confidence. How often have I heard 
its members, in the midst of the wealth and honors which 
most of them in due season attained, sigh over the recol- 
lection of those humbler days, when love and ambition 
were young and buoyant — and no difference of opinion 
was able to bring even a momentary chill over the warmth 
of friendship. 

You win imagine [writes the Countess Purgstall to Scott, 
from one of her Styrian castles], how my heart burnt within 
me, my dear, dear friend, while I read your thrice-welcome 
letter. Had all the gods and goddesses, from Saturn to La 
Libert^, laid their heads together, they could not have presented 
me with anything that so accorded with my fondest wishes. 
To have a conviction that those I love are happy, and don't 
forget me — I have no way to express my feelings — they come 
in a flood and destroy me. Could my George but light on an- 
other Charlotte, there would be but one crook left in my lot ^ — 
to wit, that Efiggersburg does not serve as a vista for the Par- 
liament Square.' Would some earthquake engulf the vile tract 
between, or the spirit of our rock introduce me to Jack the 
Giant-QueUer's shoemaker ; Lord, Lord, how delightful ! Could 
I choose, I should just for the present patronize the shoemaker, 

1 A long-popnlar manual of Presbyterian Theology is entitled The 
Crook in the Lot : the author's name, Thomas Boston, Minister of Et- 

" The ancient castle of Beggeisburg (if engravings may he tmsted, one 
of the most magnificent in Germany) was the chief seat of the Purgstalls. 
In situation and extent it seems to resemble the castle of Stirling. The 
Countess writes thus, about the same time, to another of the Mountain : 
" As for Scott and his sweet little wife, I consider them as a sort of papa 
and mamma to you all, and am happy the gods have ordered it so." 

268 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 27 

and then the moment I got you all snug in this old hall, steal 
the shoes, and lock them away till the indignation of the Lord 
passes by poor Old England! Earl Walter would play the 
devil with me, but his Charlotte's smiles would speak thanks 
ineffable, and the angry clouds pass as before the sun in his 
strength. How divinely your spectre scenes would come in 
here ! Surely there is no vanity in saying that earth has no 
moimtains like ours. 0, how delightful to see the lady that is 
blessed with Earl Walter's love, and that had mind enough to 
discover the blessing. Some kind post, I hope,' will soon tell 
me that your happiness is enlarged, in the only way it can be 
enlarged, for you have no chance now I think of taking Buona- 
parte prisoner. What sort of a genius will he be, is a very 
anxious speculation indeed ; whether the philosopher, the law- 
yer, the antiquary, the poet, or the hero wiU prevail — the spirit 
whispers unto me a happy mMange of the two last — he will 
lisp in numbers, and kick at la Nourrice. On his arrival, pre- 
sent my fondest wishes to his honor, and don't, pray, gfive him 
a name out of your list of round-table knights, but some simple 
Christian appellation from the House of Harden. And is it 
then true, my God, that Earl Walter is a Benedick, and that I 
am in Styria ? Well, bless us all, prays the separated from her 
brethren, J. A. P. 

Haioteld, July 20, 1798. 

Another extract from the Family Bible may close this 
letter — "Jf. C. Scott puerum edidit lito die Octobris, 
1798, quipostero die obiit apud Edinhurgum." 

In the summer of this year Scott had hired a pretty 
cottage at Lasswade, on the Esk, about six miles from 
Edinburgh, and there, as the back of Madame de P. 's 
letter shows, he received it from the hands of Professor 
Stewart. It is a small house, but with one room of good 
dimensions, which Mrs. Scott's taste set off to advantage 
at very humble cost — a paddock or two — and a garden 
(commanding a most beautiful view) in which Scott de- 
lighted to train his flowers and creepers. Never, I have 
heard him say, was he prouder of his handiwork than 

1798 LASSWADE 169 

when he had completed the fashioning of a rustic arch- 
way, now overgrown with hoary ivy, by way of ornament 
to the entrance from the Edinburgh road. In this retreat 
they spent some happy summers, receiving the visits of 
their few chosen friends from the neighboring city, and 
wandering at will amidst some of the most romantic scen- 
ery that Scotland can boast — Scott's dearest haunt in 
the days of his boyish ramblings. They had neighbors, 
too, who were not slow to cultivate their acquaintance. 
With the Clerks of Pennycuik, with Mackenzie the 
Man of Feeling, who then occupied the charming villa 
of Auohendinny, and with Lord Woodhouselee," Scott 
had from an earlier date been familiar; and it was while 
at Lasswade that he formed intimacies, even more impor- 
tant in their results, with the noble families of Melville 
and Buccleuch, both of whom have castles in the same 

" Sweet are the paths, O passing sweet, 

By Esk's fair streams that nm, 
O'er airy steep, thro' copsewood deep 

Imperrions to the son ; 

" From that fair dome where suit is paid 
By blast of hngle free,' 
To Anchendinny's hazel diade. 
And haunted Woodhouselee. 

" Who knows not Melville's heechy grove, 
And Roslin's rocky glen ; 
Dalkeith, which all the virtues love, 
And classic Hawthomden ? " ' 

Another verse reminds us that 

" There the rapt poet's step may rove ; " — 

and it was amidst these delicious solitudes that he did 
produce the pieces which laid the imperishable founda- 
tions of all his fame. It was here, that when his warm 
heart was beating with yoimg and happy love, and his 

1 Femiycnik. 

* [See Poetical Works, Cambridge Edition, p. 18.] 

270 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. ay 

whole mind and spirit were nerved by new motives for 
exertion — it was here, that in the ripened glow of man- 
hood he seems to have first felt something of his real 
strength, and poured himself out in those splendid origi- 
nal ballads which were at once to fix his name. 

I must, however, approach these more leisurely. 
When William Erskine was in London in the spring of 
this year, he happened to meet in society with Matthew 
Gregory Lewis, M. P. for Hindon, whose romance of 
The Monk, with the ballads which it included, had made 
for him, in those barren days, a brilliant reputation. 
This gfiod-natured fopling, the pet and plaything of cer- 
tain fashionable circles, was then busy with that miscel- 
lany which at length came out in 1801, under the name 
of Tales of Wonder, and was beating up in all quarters 
for contributions. Erskine showed Lewis Scott's ver- 
sions of Lenore and The Wild Huntsman; and when he 
mentioned that his friend had other specimens of the 
German diablerie in his portfolio, the collector anxiously 
requested that Scott might be enlisted in his cause. The 
brushwood splendor of "The Monk's" fame, 

" The false and foolish fire that 's whiskt about 
By popular air, and glares, and then goes out," ^ 

had a dazzling influence among the unknown aspirants 
of Edinburgh; and Scott, who was perhaps at all times 
rather disposed to hold popular favor as the surest test 
of literary merit, and who certainly continued through 
life to over-estimate all talents except his own, consid- 
ered this invitation as a very flattering compliment. He 
immediately wrote to Lewis, placing whatever pieces he 
had translated and imitated from the German Volkslieder 
at his disposal. The following is the first of Lewis's 
letters to hiip that has been preserved — it is without 
date, but marked by Scott "1798." 

1 Oldham. 

1798 MONK LEWIS 271 


SiE, — I cannot delay expressing to you how much I feel 
obliged to you, both for the permission to publish the ballads I 
requested, and for the handsome manner in which that permis- 
sion was granted. The plan I have proposed to myself is to 
collect all the marvellous ballads which I can lay hands upon. 
Ancient as well as modern will be comprised in my design ; 
and I shall even allow a place to Sir Gawaine's Foul Ladye, 
and the Ghost that came to Margaret's door and tirled at the 
pin. But as a ghost or a witch is a sine-qua-non ingredient in 
all the dishes of which I mean to compose my hobgoblin repast, 
I am afraid the Lied von Treue does not come within the 
plan. With regard to the romance in Claudina von Villa Bella, 
if I am not mistaken, it is only a fragment in the original ; 
but, should you have finished it, you will oblige me much by 
letting me have a copy of it, as well as of the other marvellous 
traditionary ballads you were so good as to offer me. 

Should you be in Edinburgh when I arrive there, I shall 
request Erskine to contrive an opportunity for my returning 
my personal thanks. Meanwhile, I beg you to believe me your 
most obedient and obliged M. G. Lewis. 

When Lewis reached Edinburgh, he met Scott accord- 
ingly, and the latter told Allan Cunningham, thirty years 
afterwards, that he thought he had never felt such elation 
as when the "Monk" invited him to dine with him for 
the first time at his hotel. Since he gazed on Burns in 
his seventeenth year, he had seen no one enjoying, by 
general consent, the fame of a poet; and Lewis, what- 
ever Scott might, on maturer consideration, think of his 
title to such fame, had certainly done him no small ser- 
vice; for the ballads of Alonzo the Brave and the Fair 
Imogine, and Durandarte, had rekindled effectually in 
his breast the spark of poetical ambition. Lady Char- 
lotte Campbell (now Bury), always distinguished by her 
passion for elegant letters, was ready, "in pride of rank, 
in beauty's bloom," to do the honors of Scotland to the 

272 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 27 

"Lion of Mayfair; " and I believe Scott's first introduc- 
tion to Lewis took place at one of her Ladyship's parties. 
But they met frequently, and, among other places, at 
Dalkeith — as witness one of Scott's marginal notes, 
written in 1825, on Lord Byron's Diary: "Poor fellow," 
says Byron, "he died a martyr to his new riches — of a 
second visit to Jamaica. 

that is, 

' I 'd give the lands of Deloiaine 
Dark Musgiave were alive agmn ; ' 

' I would give many a sugar-cane 
Monk Lewis were alive again.' " 

To which Scott adds: "I would pay my share! how few 
friends one has whose faults are only ridiculous. His 
visit was one of humanity to ameliorate the condition 
of his slaves. He did much good by stealth, and was a 
most generous creature. . . . Lewis was fonder of great 
people than he ought to have been, either as a man of 
talent or as a man of fashion. He had always dukes 
and duchesses in his mouth, and was pathetically fond of 
any one that had a title. You would have sworn he had 
been a parvenu of yesterday, yet he had lived all his life 
in good society. . . . Mat had queerish eyes — they pro- 
jected like those of some insects, and were flattish on the 
orbit. His person was extremely small and boyish — he 
-was indeed the least man I ever saw, to be strictly well 
and neatly made. I remember a picture of him by Saun- 
ders being handed round at Dalkeith House. The artist 
had ingeniously flung a dark folding-mantle around the 
form, under which was half hid a dagger, a dark lantern, 
or some such cut-throat appurtenance ; with all this the 
features were preserved and ennobled. It passed from 
hand to hand into that of Henry, Duke of Buccleuch, 
who, hearing the general voice affirm that it was very 
like, said aloud, ' Like Mat Lewis! Why, that picture 's 
like a Man 1 ' He looked, and lo. Mat Lewis's head was 
at his elbow. This boyishness went through life with 


him. He was a child, and a spoiled child, but a child 
of high imagination ; and so he wasted himself on ghost 
stories and German romances. He had the finest ear for 
rhythm I ever met with — finer than Byron's." 

During Lewis's stay in Scotland this year, he spent a 
day or two with Scott at Musselburgh, where the yeo- 
manry corps were in quarters. Scott received him in his 
lodgings, under the roof of an ancient dame, who afforded 
him much amusement by her daily colloquies with the fish- 
women — the MucMebackets of the place. His delight in 
studying the dialect of these people is well remembered 
by the survivors of the cavalry, and must have astonished 
the stranger dandy. While walking about before dinner 
on one of these days, Mr. Skene's recitation of the Ger- 
man Kriegslied, "Der Abschied's Tag ist da" (the day of 
departure is come), delighted both Lewis and the Quarter- 
master ; and the latter produced next morning that spir- 
ited little piece in the same measure, which, embodying 
the volunteer ardor of the time, was forthwith adopted as 
the troop-song of the Edinburgh Light Horse. ^ 

In January, 1799, Mr. Lewis appears negotiating with 
a bookseller, named BeU, for the publication of Scott's 
version of Goethe's tragedy, Goetz von Berlichingen of 
the Iron Hand. Bell seems finally to have purchased 
the copyright for twenty-five guineas, and twenty-five 
more to be paid in case of a second edition — which was 
never called for until long after the copyright had ex- 
pired. Lewis writes, "I have made him distinctly un- 
derstand, that, if you accept so small a sum, it will be 
only because this is your first publication." The edition 
of Lenore and the Yager, in 1796, had been completely 
forgotten; and Lewis thought of those ballads exactly as 
if they had been MS. contributions to his own Tales of 
Wonder, still lingering on the threshold of the press. 
The Goetz appeared accordingly, with Scott's name on 
the title-page, in the following February. 

1 See Poetical Works, toI. iv. p. 230 [Cambridge Edition, p. 9]. 

274 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. ay 

In March, 1799, he carried his wife to London, this 
being the first time that he had seen the metropolis since 
the days of his infancy. The acquaintance of Lewi^ 
served to introduce him to some literary and fashionable 
society, with which he was much amused ; but his great 
anxiety was to examine the antiquities of the Tower and 
Westminster Abbey, and to make some researches among 
the MSS. of the British Museum. He found his Goetz 
spoken of favorably, on the whole, by the critics of the 
time; but it does not appear to have attracted general 
attention. The truth is, that, to have given Goethe any- 
thing like a fair chance with the English public, his first 
drama ought to have been translated at least ten years 
before. The imitators had heen more fortunate than the 
master, and this work, which constitutes one of the most 
important landmarks in the history of German literature, 
had not come even into Scott's hands, until he had famil- 
iarized himself with the ideas which it first opened, in 
the feeble and puny mimicries of writers already forgot- 
ten. He readily discovered the vast gulf which separated 
Goethe from the German dramatists on whom he had 
heretofore been employing himself; but the public in 
general drew no such distinctions, and the English Goetz 
was soon afterwards condemned to oblivion, through the 
unsparing ridicule showered on whatever bore the name 
of German play, by the inimitable caricature of The 

The tragedy of Goethe, however, has in truth nothing 
in common with the wild absurdities against which Can- 
ning and Ellis levelled the arrows of their wit. It is a 
broad, bold, free, and most picturesque delineation of 
real characters, manners, and events; the first-fruits, in 
a word, of that passionate admiration for Shakespeare, to 
which all that is excellent in the recent imaginative liter- 
ature of Germany must be traced. With what delight 
must Scott have found the scope and manner of our 
Elizabethan drama revived on a foreign stage at the call 


of a real master! with what dotihle delight must he 
have seen Goethe seizimg for the noblest purposes of art, 
men and modes of life, scenes, incidents, and transac- 
tions, all claiming near kindred with those that had from 
boyhood formed the chosen theme of his own sympathy 
and reflection! In the baronial robbers of the Ehine, 
stern, bloody, and rapacious, but frank, generous, and, 
after their fashion, courteous — in their forays upon each 
other's domains, the besieged castles, the plundered 
herds, the captive knights, the browbeaten bishop, and 
the baffled liege-lord, who vainly strove to quell all these 
turbulences — Scott had before him a vivid image of the 
life of his own and the rival Border clans, familiarized 
to him by a hundred nameless minstrels. If it be doubt- 
ful whether, but for Percy's Eeliques, he would ever have 
thought of editing their Ballads, I think it not less so, 
whether,, but for the Iron Handed Goetz, it would ever 
have flashed upon his mind, that in the wild traditions 
which these recorded, he had been unconsciously assem- 
bling niaterials for more works of high art than the long- 
est life could serve him to elaborate. 

As the version of the Goetz has at length been included 
in Scott's poetical works, I need not make it 'the subject 
of more detailed observation here. The reader who 
turns to it for the first time will be no less struck than I 
was under similar circumstances a dozen years ago, with 
the many points of resemblance between the tone and 
spirit of Goethe's delineation, and that afterwards adopted 
by the translator in some of the most remarkable of his 
original works. One example, however, may be for- 
given : — 

A loud alarm,, with shouts and firing — Selbiss is home in, 
wounded, by two Troopers. 

Selbiss. Leave me here, and hasten to Goetz. 

1st Trooper. Let us stay — you need our aid. 

Sel. Get one of you on the watch-tower, and tell me how it 

276 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 27 

1st Troop. How shall I get up ? 

2d Troop. Get upon my shoulder ; you can then rea«h the 
ruined part. 

1st Troop. (On the tower.) Alas ! Alas ! 

Sel. What seest thou ? 

Troop. Your cavaliers fly to the hiU. 

Sel. Hellish cowards ! I would that they stood, and that I 
had a ball through my head ! Ride one of you at full speed — 
Curse and thunde|? them back to the field ! Seest thou Goetz ? 

Troop. I see the three black feathers in the midst of the 

Sel. Swim, brave swimmer — I lie here. 

Troop. A white plume ! Whose is that ? 

Sel. The Captain. 

Troop. Goetz gallops upon him — Crash — down he goes. 

Sel. The Captain ? 

Troop. Yes. 

Sel. Bravo ! — bravo ! 

Troop. Alas ! Alas ! I see Goetz no more. 

Sel. Then die, Selbiss ! 

Troop. A dreadful tumult where he stood. George's blue 
plume vanishes too. 

Sel. Climb higher ! — Seest thou Lerse ? 

Troop. No — everything is in confusion. 

Sel. No further — come down — teU me no more. 

Troop. I cannot — Bravo ! I see Goetz. 

Sel. On horseback ? 

Troop. Ay, ay — high on horseback — victory ! — they fly ! 

Sd. The Imperialists ? 

Troop. Standard and all — Goetz behind them — he has it 
— he has it ! 

The first hint of this (as of what not in poetry?) may 
be found in the Iliad — where Helen points out the per- 
sons of the Greek heroes to old Priam seated on the 
walls of Troy; and Shakespeare makes some use of the 
same idea in his Julius Caesar. But who does not re- 
cognize in Goethe's drama the true original of the death 
scene of Marmion, and the storm in Ivanhoe ? 

Scott executed about the same time his House of 

1799 HOUSE OF ASPEN 277 

Aspen, rather a rifacimento than a translation from one 
of the minor dramatists that had crowded to partake the 
popularity of Goetz of the Iron Hand. It also was sent 
to Lewis in London, where having first been read and 
much recommended by the celebrated actress, Mrs. Esten, 
it was taken up by Kemble, and I believe actually put 
in rehearsal for the stage. If so, the trial, .did not en- 
courage further preparation, and the notion was aban- 
doned. Discovering the play thirty years after among 
his papers, Scott sent it to one of the literary almanacs 
(the Keepsake of 1829). In the advertisement he says, 
"he had lately chanced to look over these scenes with 
feelings very different from those of the adventurous 
period of his literary life during which they were written, 
and yet with such, perhaps, as a reformed libertine might 
regard the illegitimate production of an early amour." 
He adds, "There is something to be ashamed of, certainly; 
but after all, paternal vanity whispers that the child has 
some resemblance to the father." This piece being also 
now included in the general edition of his works, I shall 
not dwell upon it here. It owes its most effective scenes 
to the Secret Tribunal, which fountain of terror had first 
been disclosed by Goethe, and had by this time lost much 
of its effect through the "clumsy alacrity" of a hundred 
followers. Scott's scenes are interspersed with some 
lyrics, the numbers of which, at least, are worthy of atten- 
tion. One has the metre — and not a little of the spirit, 
of the boat-song of Eoderiok Dhu and Clan Alpine: — 

" Joy to the Tiotors, the sons of old Aspen, 
Joy to the race of the battle and scar ! 
Glory's pTond garland triumphantly grasping, 
Generous in peace, and yictorious in war. 

Honor acquiring, 

Valor inspiring. 
Bursting resistless through foemen they go, 

War axes -wielding, 

Broken ranks yielding, 
Till from the battle proud Roderick retiring, 
Yields in wild rout the fair palm to his foe." 

278 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 2; 

Another is the first draft of The Maid of Toro;^ aiw 
perhaps he had forgotten the more perfect copy of tha 
song, when he sent the original to the Keepsake. 

I incline to believe that the House of Aspen was writ 
ten after Scott's return from London; but it has beei 
mentioned in the same page with the Qoetz, to avoid am 
recurrence to either the German or the Germanizec 
dramas. His return was accelerated by the domestii 
calamity which forms the subject of the following let 
ter: — 


London, 19th April, 1799. 
Mt dear Mother, — I cannot express the feeling 
with which I sit down to the discharge of my presen 
melancholy duty, nor how much I regret the acciden 
which has removed me from Edinburgh, at a time, of al 
others, when I should have wished to administer to youi 
distress all the consolation which sympathy and affectioi 
could have afforded. Your own principles of virtue anc 
religion will, however, I well know, be your best sup 
port in. this heaviest of human afflictions. The remova 
of my regretted parent from this earthly scene is to him 
doubtless, the happiest change, if the firmest integrity 
and the best spent life can entitle us to judge of the stati 
of our departed friends. When we reflect upon this, w( 
ought almost to suppress the selfish feelings of regret tha 
he was not spared to us a little longer, especially whei 
we consider that it was not the will of Heaven that h( 
should share the most inestimable of its earthly blessings 
such a portion of health as might have enabled him t( 
enjoy his family. To my dear father, then, the puttin| 
off this mortal mask was happiness, and to us who re 
main, a lesson so to live that we also may have hope ii 
our latter end ; and with you, my dearest Mother, remaii 
many blessings and some duties, a grateful recollectioi 
* [See Poetical Works, Cambriclge Edition, p. 10*] ■ 


of which will, I am sure, contribute to calm the current 
of your affliction. The affection and attention which you 
have a right to expect from your children, and which I 
consider as the best tribute we can pay to the memory of 
the parent we have lost, will also, I am sure, contribute 
its full share to the alleviation of your distress. The sit- 
uation of Charlotte's health, in its present delicate state, 
prevented me from setting off directly for Scotland, when 
I heard that immediate danger was apprehended. I am 
now glad I did not do so, as I could not with the utmost 
expedition have reached Edinburgh before the lamented 
event had taken place. The situation of my affairs must 
detain me here for a few days more; the instant I can I 
will set off for Scotland. I need not tell you not even 
to attempt to answer this letter — such an exertion would 
be both unnecessary and improper. John or Tom will let 
me know how my sister and you do. I am, ever, dear 
Mother, your dutiful and affectionate son, W. S. 

P. S. — Permit me, my dear Madam, to add a line to 
Scott's letter, to express to you how sincerely I feel for 
your loss, and how much I regret that I am not near you 
to try by the most tender care to soften the pafiii that so 
great a misfortune must inflict on you and on all those 
who had the happiness of being connected with him. I 
hope soon to have the pleasure of returning to you, and 
to convince you of the sincere affection of your daughter, 

M. G. S. 

The death of this worthy man, in his 70th year, after 
a long series of feeble health and suffering, was an event 
which could only be regarded as a great deliverance to 
himself. He had had a succession of paralytic attacks, 
under which, mind as well as body had by degrees been 
laid quite prostrate. When the first Chronicles of the 
Canongate appeared, a near relation of the family said 
to me: "I had been out of Scotland for some time, and 

28o SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. a8 

did not know of my good friend's illness, until I reached 
Edinburgh, a few months before his death. Walter 
carried me to visit him, and warned me that I should see 
a great change. I saw the very scene that is here painted 
of the elder Croftangry's sickroom — not a feature differ- 
ent — poor Anne Scott, the gentlest of creatures, was 
treated by the fretful patient precisely like this niece." ^ 

I have lived to see the curtain rise and fall once more 
on a like scene. 

Mr. Thomas Scott continued to manage his father's 
business. He married early ;^ he was in his circle of 
society extremely popular; and his prospects seemed fair 
in all things. The property left by the old gentleman 
was less than had been expected, but sufficient to make 
ample provision for his widow, and a not inconsiderable 
addition to the resources of those among whom the re- 
mainder was divided. 

Scott's mother and sister, both much exhausted with 
their attendance on a protracted sickbed, and the latter 
already in the first stage of the malady which in two 
years more carried her also to her grave, spent the greater 
part of the following summer and autumn in his cottage 
at Lasswade. 

There he was now again laboring assiduously in the 
service of Lewis's "hobgoblin repast," and the specimens 
of his friend's letters on his contributions, as they were 
successively forwarded to London, which were printed by 
way of appendix to the Essay on Imitations of the An- 
cient Ballad, in 1830,^ may perhaps be sufficient for the 
reader's curiosity. The versions from Biirger were, in 
consequence of Lewis's remarks, somewhat corrected; 
and, indeed, although Scott speaks of himself as having 

1 See Chronicles of the Canongate, cbap.'i. 

' Mrs. Thomas Scott, Miss Maoculloeh of Ardwell, was one of the best 
and wisest and most agreeable women I have ever known. She had a 
motherly affection for all Sir Walter's family, and she sarvived them all. 
She died at Canterbm^ in April, 1848, aged 72. — (1848.) 

' See Minsirdsy, vol. iv. p. 79. 


paid no attention "a< the time," to the lectures of his 
"martinet in rhymes and numbers" — "lectures which 
were," he adds, "severe enough, but useful eventually, 
as forcing on a young and careless versifier criticisms 
absolutely necessary to his future success " — it is certain 
that his memory had in some degree deceived him when 
he used this language, for, of all the false rhymes and 
Scotticisms which Lewis had pointed out in these "lec- 
tures," hardly one appears in the printed copies of the 
ballads contributed by Scott to the Tales of Wonder. 

As to his imperfect rhymes of this period, I have no 
doubt he owed them to his recent zeal about collecting 
the ballads of the Border. He had, in his familiarity 
with compositions so remarkable for merits of a higher 
order, ceased to be offended, as in the days of his devo- 
tion to Langhome and Micble he would probably have 
been, with their loose and vague assonances, which are 
often, in fact, not rhymes at all; a license pardonable 
enough in real minstrelsy, meant to be chanted to moss- 
troopers with the accompanying tones of the war-pipe, 
but certainly not worthy of imitation in verses written 
for the eye of a polished age. Of this carelessness as to 
rhyme, we see little or nothing in our few specimens of 
his boyish verse, and it does not occur, to any extent that 
has ever been thought worth notice, in his great works. 

But Lewis's collection did not engross the leisure of 
this summer. It produced also what Scott justly calls 
his "first serious attempts in verse;" and of these, the 
earliest appears to have been the Glenfinlas. Here the 
scene is laid in the most favorite district of his favorite 
Perthshire Highlands; and the Gaelic tradition on which 
it is founded was far more likely to draw out the secret 
strength of his genius, as well as to arrest the feelings of 
his countrymen, than any subject with which the stores 
of German diablerie could have supplied him. It has 
been alleged, however, that the poet makes a German 
use of his Scottish materials; that the legend, as briefly 

28a SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. a8 

told in the simple prose of his preface, is more affecting 
than the lofty and sonorous stanzas themselves; that the 
vague terror of the original dream loses, instead of gain- 
ing, by the expanded elaboration of the detail. There 
may be something in these objections: but no man can 
pretend to be an impartial critic of the piece which first 
awoke his own childish ear to the power of poetry and 
the melody of verse. 

The next of these compositions was, I believe, The Eve 
of St. John, in which Scott repeoples the tower of Smail- 
holm, the awe-inspiring haunt of his infancy; and here 
he touches, for the first time, the one superstition which 
can still be appealed to with full and perfect effect ; the 
only one which lingers in minds long since weaned from 
all sympathy with the machinery of witches and goblins. 
And surely this mystery was never touched with more 
thrilling skill than in that noble ballad. It is the first 
of his original pieces, too, in which he uses the measure 
of his own favorite Minstrels ; a measure which the mo- 
notony of mediocrity had long and successfully been 
laboring to degrade, but in itself adequate to the expres- 
sion of the highest thoughts, as well as the gentlest emo- 
tions ; and capable, in fit hands, of as rich a variety of • 
music as any other of modern times. This was written ■ 
at Mertoun-house in the autumn of 1799. Some dilapi- 
dations had taken place in the tower of Smailholm, and 
Harden, being informed of the fact, and entreated with 
needless earnestness by his kinsman to arrest the hand 
of the spoiler, requested playfully a ballad, of which 
Smailholm should be the scene, as the price of his assent. 
The stanza in which the groves of Mertoun are alluded 
to has been quoted in a preceding page. 

Then came The Gray Brother, founded on another 
superstition, which seems to have been almost as ancient 
as the belief in ghosts; namely, that the holiest service 
of the altar cannot go on in the presence of an unclean 
person — a heinous sinner unconfessed and unabsolved. 


The fragmentary form of this poem greatly heightens the 
awfulness of its impression; and in construction and 
metre, the verses which really belong to the story appear 
to me the happiest that have ever been produced ex- 
pressly in imitation of the ballad of the Middle Ages. In 
the stanzas, previously quoted, on the scenery of the 
Esk, however beautiful in themselves, and however inter- 
esting now as marking the locality of the composition, he 
must be allowed to have lapsed into another strain, and 
produced a pannus p^irpureus which interferes with and 
mars the general texture. 

He wrote at the same period the fine chivalrous ballad 
entitled The Fire-King, in which there is more than 
enough to make us forgive the machinery. 

It was in the course of this autumn that he first visited 
Bothwell Castle, the seat of Archibald, Lord Douglas, 
who had married the Lady Frances Scott, sister to Henry, 
Duke of Buccleuch; a woman whose many amiable vir- 
tues were combined with extraordinary strength of mind, 
and who had, from the first introduction of the young 
poet at Dalkeith, formed high anticipations of his future 
career. Lady Douglas was one of his dearest friends 
through life; and now, under her roof, he improved an 
acquaintance (begun also at Dalkeith) with one whose 
abilities and accomplishments not less qualified her to 
estimate him, and who still survives to lament the only 
event that could have interrupted their cordial confidence 
— the Lady Louisa Stuart,^ daughter of the celebrated 

^ [Lady Louisa Stnart inherited a, laige measure of the talent of her 
maternal grandmother, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and her letters 
form a peculiarly attractive part of the Scott correspondence. A selec- 
tion f romi these, to the year 1826, was first published in the Familiar Let- 
ters (1893), and some later letters, both of Lady Louisa and of Sir Walter, 
are included in Selections from the Manuscripts of Lady Louisa Stuart 

Lady Donglas was the kinswoman as well as dear friend of Lady Lou- 
isa, one being the granddaughter, the other the grand-niece of John, Duke 
of Argyle and Greenwich. Lady Louisa long outlived Scott and all the 
other friends of her prime, dying in 1851, at the age of 94.] 

a84 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. a8 

John, Earl of Bute. These ladies, who were sisters in 
mind, feeling, and affection, he visited among scenes the 
noblest and most interesting that all Scotland can show 
— alike famous in history and romance; and he was not 
unwilling to make Bothwell and Blantyre the subject of 
another ballad. His purpose was never completed. I 
think, however, the reader will not complain of my intro- 
ducing the fragment which I have found among his 

" When fruitful Clydesdale's apple-boweis 
Are mellowing in the noon ; 
When sighs round Femhroke's min'd toweis 
The sultry breath of June ; 

" When Clyde, despite his sheltering wood, 
Must leave his channel dry ; 
And vainly o'er the limpid flood 
The angler guides his fly ; 

" If chance by Bothwell's lovely braes 
A wanderer thou hast been, 
Or hid thee from the summer's blaze 
In Blantyre's bowers of green, 

" Full where the copsewood opens wild 
Thy pilgrim step hath stayed. 
Where Bothwell's towers in rains piled 
O'erlook the verdant glade ; 

" And many a tale of love and fear 
Hath mingled with the scene — 
Of Bothwell's banks that bloom'd so dear 
And Bothwell's bonny Jean. 

" 0, if with rugged minstrel lays 
Unsated be thy ear, 
And thou of deeds of other days 
Another tale wilt hear, 

Then all beneath the spreading beech 

Flung careless on the lea, 
The Gothic muse the tale shall teach 

Of Bothwell's sisters three. 


" Wi|^ht Wallace stood on Deckmont head, 
He blew his bngle round, 
Till the wild bull in Cadyow wood 
Has started at the sound. 

" St. George's cross, o'er Bothwell hnng. 
Was waving far and wide, 
And from the lofty turret flung 
Its crimson blaze on Clyde ; 

" And rising at the bugle blast 
That marked the Scottish foe, 
Old England's yeomen mnster'd fast, 
And bent the Norman bow. 

" Tall in the midst Sir Aylmer rose. 
Proud Pembroke's Earl was he — 
WhUe " . . . 

One morning, during Ms visit to Bothwell, was spent 
on an excursion to the ruins of Graignethan Castle, the 
seat, in former days, of the great Evandale branch of 
the house of Hamilton, but now the property of Lord 
Douglas ; and the poet expressed such rapture with the 
scenery, that his hosts urged him to accept, for his life- 
time, the use of a small habitable house, enclosed within 
the circuit of the ancient walls. This offer was not at 
once declined ; but circumstances occurred before the end 
of the year which rendered it impossible for him to es- 
tablish his summer residence in Lanarkshire. The castle 
of Graignethan is the original of his "Tillietudlem."^ 

Another imperfect ballad, in which he had meant to 
blend together two legends familiar to every reader of 
Scottish history and romance, has been f oimd in the same 
portfolio, and the handwriting proves it to be of tihe same 
early date. Though long and very unfinished, it contains 
so many touches of his best manner that I cannot with- 

1 The name Tittietudlem was no doubt taken from that of the ravine 
under the old castle of Lanark — which town is near Graignethan, This 
ravine is called Gillytudlem. 

286 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 28 


" And ne'er but once, my son," He says, 
" Was yon sad cavern trod, 
In persecution's iron days, 

When the land was left by God. 

" From BewUe bog, with slaughter red, 
A wanderer hither drew. 
And oft he stopt and turned his head, 
As by fits the night wind blew ; 

" For trampling round by Cheviot edge 
Were heard the troopers keen, 
And frequent from the Whitelaw ridge 
The death-shot flashed between. 

" The moonbeams through the misty shower 
On yon dark cavern fell ; 
Through the clondy night the snow gleamed white, 
Which sunbeam ne'er could quell. 

" Yon cavern dark is rough and mde. 
And cold its jaws of snow ; 
But more rough and rude are the men of blood, 
That hunt my life below ; 

" Ton spell-bonnd den, as the aged tell, 
Was hewn by demons' hands ; 
But I had lourd ^ melle with the fiends of hell, 
Than with Clavers and his band." 

He heard the deep-mouthed bloodhonnd bark, 

He heard the horses neigh. 
He plunged him in the cavern dark, 

And downward sped his way. 

Now faintly down the winding path 
Came the cry of the faulting hound. 

And the muttered oath of baulked wrath 
Was lost in hollow sound. 

He threw him on the flinted floor, 
And held his breath for fear ; 

1 Lourd; i. e., liefer — rather. 


He rose and bitter cnised his foes, 
As the sonnds died on his ear. 

" O bare thine arm, thou battling Lord, 
For Scotland's wandering band ; 
Dash from the oppressor's grasp the sword. 
And sweep him from the land I 

" Forget not thou th; people's groans 
From dark Dunnottar's tower, 
Mix'd with the seal owl's shrilly moans, 
And ocean's bursting roar ! 

" O in fell Clavers' hour of pride, 
Even in his mightiest day. 
As bold he strides through conquest's tide, 
O stretch him on the clay ( 

" His widow and his little ones, 
O may their tower of trust 
Bemove ite strong foundation stones, 
And crush them in the dust ! " — 

" Sweet prayers to me," a voice replied, 
" Thrice welcome, guest of mine ! " — 
And glimmering on the cavern side, 
A light was seen to shine. 

An aged man, in amice brown. 

Stood by the wanderer's side. 
By powerful charm, a dead man's arm 

The torch's light supplied. 

From each stiff finger stretched upright. 

Arose a ghastly flame, 
That waved not in the blast of night 

Which through the cavern came. 

O deadly blue was that taper's hue. 

That flamed the cavern o'er, 
But more deadly blue was the ghastly hue 

Of his eyes who the taper bore. 

He laid on his head a hand like lead. 
As heavy, pale, and cold : — 
" Vengeance be thine, thou guest of mine. 
If thy heart be firm and bold. 


" But if faint thy heart, and caitifE fear 
Thy recreant sinews know, 
The mountain erne thy heart shall tear, 
Thy nerves the hooded crov." 

The wanderer raised him undismay'd : 

" My soul, by dangers steeled. 
Is stubborn as my border blade, 

Which never knew to yield. 

" And if thy power can speed the hour 
Of vengeance on my foes, 
Theirs be the fate, from bridge and gate 
To feed the hooded crows." 

The Brownie looked him in the face, 
And his color fled with speed — 
" I fear me," quoth he, " uneath it will be 
To match thy word and deed. 

" In ancient days when English bands 
Sore ravaged Scotland fair. 
The sword and shield of Scottish land 
Was valiant Halbert Kerr. 

" A warlock loved the warrior well, 
Sir Michael Scott by name. 
And he sought for his sake a spell to make. 
Should the Southern foemen tame : 

" ' Look thou,' he said, ' from Cessford head, 

As the July sun sinks low, 
And when glimmering white on Cheviot's height 

Thou shalt spy a wreath of snow, 
The spell is complete which shall bring to thy feet 

The haughty Saxon foe.' 

" For many a year wrought the wizard here. 

In Cheviot's bosom low, 
Till the spell was complete, and in July's heat 

Appeared December's snow ; 
But Cessford's Halbert never came 

The wondrous cause to know. 

" For years before in Bowden aisle 
The warrior's bones had lain, 
And after short while, by female guile. 
Sir Michael Scott was slain. 


" Bnt me and my brethren in this cell 
His mighty charms retain, — 
And he that can quell the powerful spell 
Shall o'er broad Scotland reign." 

He led him through an iron door 

And up a winding stair, 
And in wild amaze did the wanderer gaze 

On the sight which opened there. 

Through the gloomy night flashed mddy light — 

A thousand torches' glow ; 
The cave rose high, like the vaulted sky, 

O'er stalls in double row. 

In every stall of that endless hall 

Stood a steed in barbing bright ; 
At the foot of each steed, all armed save the head, 

Lay stretched a stalwart knight. 

In each mailed hand was a naked brand ; 

As they lay on the black bull's hide. 
Each visage stem did upwards turn. 

With eyeballs fixed and wide. 

A launcegay strong, full twelve ells long. 

By every warrior hung ; 
At each pommel there, for battle yare, 

A Jedwood axe was slung. 

The casque hung near each cavalier ; 

The plumes waved mournfully 
At every tread which the wanderer made 

Through the hall of Gramarye ; 

The ruddy beam of the torches' gleam 

That glared the warriors on. 
Reflected light from armor bright, 

In noontide splendor shone. 

And onward seen in lustre sheen. 

Still lengthening on the sight, 
Through the boundless hall, stood steeds in stall, 

And by each lay a sable knight. 

Still as the dead lay each horseman dread, 

And moved nor limb nor tongue ; 
Each steed stood stiff as an earthfast cliff, 

Nor hoof nor bridle rung. 

290 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 28 

No Bonnds tiirongh all the spacious hall 

The deadly still divide, 
Save wheie echoes aloof from the vaulted roof 

To the wanderer's step replied. 

At Ieii|^ before his wondering eyes, 

On an iron column home, 
Of antiqne shape, and giant size, 

Appear'd a sword and horn. 

" Now choose thee here," qnoth his leader, 
" Thy venturous fortune try ; 
Thy woe and weal, thy boot and bale. 
In yon brand and bngle lie." 

To the fatal brand he mounted his hand. 

But his soul did quiver and quail ; 
The life-blood did start to his shuddering heart. 

And left him wan and pale. 

The brand he forsook, and the horn he took 

To 'say a gentle sound ; 
But so wild a blast from the bugle brast. 

That the Cheviot rock'd around. 

From Forth to Tees, from seas to seas. 

The awful bugle mng ; 
On Carlisle wall, and Berwick withal. 

To arms the warders sprung. 

With clank and clang the cavern rang. 

The steeds did stamp and neigh ; 
And loud was the yell as each warrior fell 

Sterte up with hoop and cry. 

" Woe, woe," they cried, " thou caitiff coward, 
That ever thou wert bom ! 
Why drew ye not the knightly sword 
Before ye blew the horn ? " 

The morning on the mountain shone, 

And on the bloody ground 
Hurled from the cave with shiver'd bone. 

The mangled wretch was found. 

And still beneath the cavern dread, 

Among the glidders gray, 
A shapeless stone with lichens spread 

Marks where the wanderer lay. 

1799 FRAGMENTS 291 

The reader may be interested by comparing with this 
ballad the author's prose version of part of its legend, 
as given in one of the last works of his pen. He says, 
in the Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, 1830: 
"Thomas of Ercildoune, during his retirement, has been 
supposed, from time to time, to be levying forces to take 
the field in some crisis of his country's fate. The story 
has often been told, of a daring horse-jockey having sold 
a black horse to a man of venerable and antique appear- 
ance, who appointed the remarkable hillock upon Eildon 
hills, called the Lucken-hare, as the place where, at 
twelve o'clock at night, he should receive the price. He 
came, his money was paid in ancient coin, and he was in- 
vited by his customer to view his residence. The trader 
in horses followed his guide in the deepest astonishment 
through several long ranges of stalls, in each of which 
a horse stood motionless, while an armed warrior lay 
equally still at the charger's feet. ' All these men,' said 
the wizard in a whisper, ' will awaken at the battle of 
Sheriffmuir. ' At the extremity of this extraordinary 
depot hung a sword and a horn, which the prophet 
pointed out to the horse-dealer as containing the means 
of dissolving the spell. The man in confusion took the 
horn and attempted to wind it. The horses instantly 
started in their stalls, stamped, and shook their bridles, 
the men arose and clashed their armor, and the mortal, 
terrified at the tumult he had excited, dropped the horn 
from his hand. A voice like that of a giant, louder even 
than the tumult around, pronounced these words : — 

' Woe to the coward that ever he was horn, 
That did not draw the sword hefore he blew the horn.' 

A whirlwind expelled the horse-dealer from the cavern, 
the entrance to which he could never again find. A 
moral might be perhaps extracted from the legend, 
namely, that it is best to be armed against danger before 
bidding it defiance." 

One more fragment, in another style, and I shall have 

292 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. a8 

exhausted this budget. I am well aware that the intro- 
duction of such things will be considered by many as of 
questionable propriety; but, on the whole, it appears to 
me the better course to omit nothing by which it is in my 
power to throw light on this experimental period. 

" Go sit old Cheviot's crest below, 
And pensive mark the lingering snow 

In all his scauTS ahide, 
And slow dissolving from the hill 
In many a sightless, soundless rill, 

Feed sparkling Bowmont's tide. 

" Fair shines the stream by bank and lea, 
As wimpling to the eastern sea 

She seeks TUl's snUen bed. 
Indenting deep the fatal plain. 
Where Scotland's noblest, brave in vain, 

Around their monarch bled. 

" And westward hiUs on hills you see. 
Even as old Ocean's mightiest sea 

Heaves high her waves of foam, 
Dark and snow-ridged from Cutsfeld's wold 
To the proud foot of Cheviot roll'd, 

Earth's mountain billows come." 

Notwithstanding all these varied essays, and the 
charms of the distinguished society into which his repu- 
tation had already introduced him, Scott's friends do not 
appear to have as yet entertained the slightest notion 
that literature was to be the main business of his life. 
A letter of Kerr of Abbotrule congratulates him on his 
having had more to do at the autumnal assizes of Jed- 
burgh this year than on any former occasion, which intel- 
ligence he seems himself to have communicated with no 
feeble expressions of satisfaction. "I greatly enjoy this," 
says Kerr; "go on; and with your strong sense and 
hourly ripening knowledge, that you must rise to the top 
of the tree in the Parliament House in due season, I hold 
as certain as that Murray died Lord Mansfield. But 


don't let many an Ovid,^ or rather many a Burns (which 
is better), be lost in you. I rather think men of business 
have produced as good poetry in their by-hours as the 
professed regulars; and I don't see any sufficient reason 
why a Lord President Scott should not be a famous poet 
(in the vacation time), when we have seen a President 
Montesquieu step so nobly beyond the trammels in the 
Esprit des Loix. I suspect Dryden would have been a 
happier man had he had your profession. The reason- 
ing talents visible in his verses assure me that he would 
have ruled in Westminster Hall as easily as he did at 
Button's, and he might have found time enough besides 
for everything that one really honors his memory for." 
This friend appears to have entertained, in October, 1799, 
the very opinion as to the profession of literature on 
which Scott acted through life. 

Having again given a week to Liddesdale, in company 
with Mr. Shortreed, he spent a few days at Kosebank, 
and was preparing to return to Edinburgh for the winter, 
when James Ballantyne called on him one morning, and 
begged him to supply a few paragraphs on some legal 
question of the day for his newspaper. Scott complied; 
and carrying his article himself to the printing-office, 
took with him also some of his recent pieces, designed 
to appear in Lewis's collection. With these, especially, 
as his Memorandum says, the "Morlachian fragment 
after Goethe," Ballantyne was charmed, and he ex- 
pressed his regret that Lewis's book was so long in ap- 
pearing. Scott talked of Lewis with rapture ; and, after 
reciting some of his stanzas, said, "I ought to apologize 
to you for having troubled you with anything of my own 
when I had things like this for your ear." "I felt at 
once," says Ballantyne, "that his own verses were far 
above what Lewis could ever do, and though, when I said 

1 " How sweet an Ovid, Murray was our boast ; 
How many Martials were iu Fult'ney lost I " 

The Dunciad, b. iv. v. 170. 

294 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. a 8 

this, he dissented, yet he seemed pleased with the warmth 
of my approbation." At parting, Scott threw out a cas- 
ual observation, that he wondered his old friend did not 
try to get some little booksellers' work, "to keep his types 
in play during the rest of the week." Ballantyne an- 
swered, that such an idea had not before occurred to him 
— that he had no acquaintance with the Edinburgh 
"trade;" but, if he had, his types were good, and he 
thought he could afford to work more cheaply than town 
printers. Scott, "with his good-humored smile," said, 
"You had better try what you can do. You have been 
praising my little ballads ; suppose you print off a dozen 
copies or so of as many as will make a pamphlet, suffi- 
cient to let my Edinburgh acquaintances judge of your 
skill for themselves." JBallantyne assented; and I be- 
lieve exactly twelve copies of William and Helen, The 
Fire-King, The Chase, and a few more of those pieces, 
were thrown off accordingly, with the title (alluding to 
the long delay of Lewis's collection) of Apology for 
Tales of Terror — 1799. This first specimen of a press, 
afterwards so celebrated, pleased Scott; and he said to 
Ballantyne, "I have been for years collecting old Bor- 
der ballads, and I think I could, with little trouble, put 
together such a selection from them as might make a neat 
little volume, to sell for four or five shillings. I will 
talk to some of the booksellers about it when I get to 
Edinburgh, and if the thing goes on, you shall be the 
printer." Ballantyne highly relished the proposal; and 
the result of this little experiment changed wholly the 
course of his' worldly fortunes, as well as of his friend's. 
Shortly after the commencement of the Winter Ses- 
sion, the office of Sheriff -depute of Selkirkshire became 
vacant by the death of an early ally of Scott's, Andrew 
Plummer of Middlestead, a scholar and antiquary, who 
had entered with zeal into his ballad researches, and 
whose name occurs accordingly more than once in the 
notes to the Border Minstrelsy. Perhaps the commu- 


nity of their tastes may have had some part in suggesting 
to the Duke of Bucoleuch, that Scott might fitly succeed 
Mr. Plummer in the magistrature. Be that as it might, 
his Grace's influence was used with the late Lord Mel- 
ville, who, in those days, had the general control of the 
Crown patronage in Scotland, and his Lordship was pre- 
pared to look favorably on Scott's pretensions to some 
office of this description. Though neither the Duke nor 
this able Minister were at all addicted to literature, they 
had both seen Scott frequently under their own roofs, 
and been pleased with his manners and conversation; 
and he had by this time come to be on terms of affection- 
ate intimacy with some of the younger members of either 
family. The Earl of Dalkeith (afterwards Duke Charles 
of Buccleuch), and his brother Lord Montagu,^ had been 
participating, with kindred ardor, in the military patri- 
otism of the period, and had been thrown into Scott's 
society under circumstances well qualified to ripen ac- 
quaintance into confidence. The Honorable Robert 
Dundas, eldest son of the statesman whose title he has 
inherited, had been one of Scott's companions in the 
High School; and he, too, had been of late a lively par- 
taker in the business of the yeomanry cavalry; and, last 
not least, Scott always remembered with gratitude the 
strong intercession on this occasion of Lord Melville's 
nephews, Robert Dundas of Arniston, then Lord Advo- 
cate, and afterwards Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 
Scotland, and the Right Honorable William Dundas, 
then Secretary to the Board of Control, and now Lord 
Clerk Register. 

His appointment to the Sheriffship bears date 16th 
December, 1799. It secured him an annual salary of 
£300; an addition to his resources which at once re- 
lieved his mind from whatever degree of anxiety he might 

1 [Henry James Scott, the second son of Duke Henry of Bncclench, suc- 
ceeded to the Barony of Montagu on the death of his maternal grandfa- 
ther, the last Duke of Montagn. Lord Montagu died in 1845.] 

296 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. a8 

have felt in considering the prospect of an increasing 
family, along with the ever precarious chances of a pro- 
fession, in the daily drudgery of which it is impossible 
to suppose that he ever colild have found much pleasure.^. 
The duties of the office were far from heavy; the district, 
small, peaceful, and pastoral, was in great part the pro- 
perty of the Duke of Buccleuch; and he turned with 
redoubled zeal to his project of editing the ballads, many 
of the best of which belonged to this very district of his 
favorite Border — those "tales," which, as the Dedica- 
tion of the Minstrelsy expresses it, had "in elder times 
Qelebrated the prowess and cheered the halls" of his 
noble patron's ancestors. 

1 " My profession and I came to stand nearly upon the footings which 
honest Slender consoled himself on hemng established with Mistress Anne 
Page : ' There was no great love between ns at the beginning, and it 
pleased heaven to decrease it on farther acquaintance.' " — Introduction to 
The Lay of the Last Minstrd, 1830. 




James Ballanttne, in his Memorandum, after men- 
tioning his ready acceptance of Scott's proposal to print 
the Minstrelsy, adds, "I do not believe, that even at 
this time, he seriously contemplated giving himself much 
to literature." I confess, however, that a letter of his, 
addressed to Ballantyne in the spring of 1800, inclines 
me to question the accuracy of this impression. After 
alluding to an intention which he had entertained, in 
consequence of the delay of Lewis's collection, to publish 
an edition of the ballads contained in his own little vol- 
ume, entitled Apology for Tales of Terror, he goes on 
to detail plans for the future direction of his printer's 
career, which were, no doubt, primarily suggested by the 
friendly interest he took in BaUantyne's fortunes; but 
there are some hints which, considering what afterwards 
did take place, lead me to suspect, that even thus early 
the writer contemplated the possibility at least of being 
himself very intimately connected with the result of these 
air-drawn schemes. The letter is as follows : — 


Castle Street, 22d AprU, 1800. 
Deae Sib, — I have your favor, since the receipt of 
which some things have occurred which induce me to 

298 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 28 

postpone my intention of publishing my ballads, particu- 
larly a letter from a friend, assuring me that The Tales 
of Wonder are actually in the printer's hand. In this 
situation I endeavor to strengthen my small stock of 
patience, which has been nearly exhausted by the delay 
of this work, to which (though for that reason alone) I 
almost regr«t having promised assistance. I am still 
resolved to have recourse to your press for the Ballads of 
the Border, which are in some forwardness. 

I have now to request your forgiveness for mentioning 
a plan which your friend Gillon and I have talked over 
together with a view as well to the public advantage as 
to your individual interest. It is nothing short of a 
migration from Kelso to this place, which I think might 
be effected upon a prospect of a very flattering nature. 

Three branches of printing are quite open in Edin- 
burgh, all of which I am well convinced you have both 
the ability and inclination to unite in your person. The 
first is that of an editor of a newspaper, which shall con- 
tain something of an uniform historical deduction of 
events, distinct from the farrago of detached and uncon- 
nected plagiarisms from the London paragraphs of The 
Sun. Perhaps it might be possible (and Gillon has 
promised to make inquiry about it) to treat with the pro- 
prietors of some established paper — suppose the Cale- 
donian Mercury — and we would all struggle to obtain 
for it some celebrity. To this might be added a 
Monthly Magazine, and Caledonian Annual Eegister, if 
you will; for both of which, with the excellent literary 
assistance which Edinburgh at present affords, there is a 
fair opening. The next object would naturally be the 
execution of Session papers, the best paid work which a 
printer undertakes, and of which, I dare say, you would 
soon have a considerable share ; for as you make it your 
business to superintend the proofs yourself, your educa- 
tion and abilities would insure your employers against 
the gross and provoking blunders which the poor com- 


posers are often obliged to submit to. The publication 
of works, either ancient or modern, opens a third fair 
field for ambition. The only gentleman who attempts 
anything in that way is in very bad health; nor can I, 
at any rate, compliment either the accuracy or the execu- 
tion of his press. I believe it is well understood that 
with equal attention an Edinburgh press would have su- 
perior advantages even to those of the metropolis; and 
though I would not advise launching into that line at 
once, yet it would be easy to feel your way by occupying 
your press in this manner on vacant days only. 

It appears to me that such a plan, judiciously adopted 
and diligently pursued, opens a fair road to an ample 
forttme. In the mean while, the Kelso Mail might be 
so arranged as to be still a source of some advantage to 
you ; and I dare say, if wanted, pecuniary assistance might 
be procured to assist you at the outset, either upon terms 
of a share or otherwise ; but I refer you for particulars 
to Joseph, in whose room I am now assuming the pen, 
for reasons too distressing to be declared, but at which 
you will readily guess. I hope, at all events, you will 
impute my interference to anything rather than an imper- 
tinent intermeddling with your concerns on the part of, 
Dear Sir, your obedient servant, 

Waltee Scott. 

The Joseph Gillon here named was a solicitor of some 
eminence ; a man of strong abilities and genuine wit and 
humor, for whom Scott, as well as Ballantyne, had a warm 
regard.^ The intemperate habits alluded to at the close 
of Scott's letter gradually undermined his business, his 
health, and his character; and he was glad, on leaving 
Edinburgh, which became quite necessary some years 
afterwards, to obtain a humble situation about the House 

1 Calling on him one day in his writing-office, Scott said, "Why, Jo- 
seph, this place is as hot as an oven." " Well," quoth GriUon, " and is n't 
it here that I make my bread ? " 

300 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. a 8 

of Lords — in which he died.^ The answer of Ballantyne 
has not been preserved. 

To return to the Minstrelsy. — Scott found able as- 
sistants in the completion of his design. Bichard Heber 
(long Member of Parliament for the University of Oxford) 
happened to spend this winter in Edinburgh, and was 
welcomed, as his talents and accomplishments entitled 
him to be, by the cultivated society of the place. With 
Scott his multifarious learning, particularly his profound 
knowledge of the literary monuments of the Middle Ages, 
soon drew him into habits of close alliance; the stores of 
his library, even then extensive, were freely laid open, 
and his own oral commentaries were not less valuable. 
But through him Scott made acquaintance with a person 
still more qualified to give him effectual aid in this under- 
taking ; a native of the Border — from infancy, like him- 
self, an enthusiastic lover of its legends, and who had 
already saturated his mind with every species of lore that 
could throw light upon these relics. 

Few who read these pages can be unacquainted with 
the leading facts in the history of John Leyden. Few 
can need to be reminded that this extraordinary man, 
born in a shepherd's cottage in one of the wildest valleys 
of Boxburghshire, and of course almost entirely self- 
educated, had, before he attained his nineteenth year, 
confounded the doctors of Edinburgh by the portentous 
mass of his acquisitions in almost every department of 
learning. He had set the extremest penury at utter de- 
fiance, or rather he had never been conscious that it could 
operate as a bar; for bread and water, and access to 
books and lectures, comprised all within the bound of 
his wishes ; and thus he toiled and battled at the gates of 

' The poet casually meetmg Joseph in the street, on one of his visits to 
London, expressed his regret at having lost his society in Edinhurgh; 
Joseph responded by a quotation from the Scotch Metrical Version of the 
Psalms — 

" rather in 
Tlie Lord*8 house would I keep a door, 
Than dwell in tents of sin." 

1 800 HEBER — LEYDEN 301 

science after science, until his unconquerable persever- 
ance carried everything before it; and yet with this mo- 
nastic abstemiousness and iron hardness of will, perplex- 
ing those about him by manners and habits in which it 
was hard to say whether the moss-trooper or the school- 
man of former days most prevailed, he was at heart a 

Archibald Constable, in after-life one of the most 
eminent of British publishers, was at this period the 
keeper of a small book-shop, into which few, but the poor 
students of Leyden's order, had hitherto fotmd their way. 
Heber, in the course of his bibliomaniacal prowlings, 
discovered that it contained some of 

" The small old volumes, dark with tarnished gold," 

which were already the Delilahs of his imagination ; and, 
moreover, that the young bookseller had himseK a strong 
taste for such charmers. Frequenting the place accord- 
ingly, he observed with some curiosity the barbarous as- 
pect and gestures of another daily visitant, who came 
not to purchase, evidently, but to pore over the more 
recondite articles of the collection — often balanced for 
hours on a ladder with a folio in his hand, like Dominie 
Sampson. The English virtuoso was on the lookout for 
any books or MSS. that might be of use to the editor of 
the projected Minstrelsy, and some casual colloquy led 
to the discovery that this unshorn stranger was, amidst 
the endless labyrinth of his lore, a master of legend and 
tradition — an enthusiastic collector and most skilful 
expounder of these very Border ballads in particular. 
Scott heard with much interest Heber 's account of his 
odd acquaintance, and found, when introduced, the person 
whose initials, affixed to a series of pieces in verse, chiefly 
translations from Greek, Latin, and the northern lan- 
guages, scattered, during the last three or four years, 
over the pages of the Edinburgh Magazine, had often 
much excited his curiosity, as various indications pointed 

302 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 29 

out the Scotch Border to be the native district of this 
unknown "J. L." 

These new friendships led to a great change in Ley- 
den's position, purposes, and prospects. He was pre- 
sently received into the best society of Edinburgh, where 
his strange, wild uncouthness of demeanor does not seem 
to have at all interfered with the general appreciation of 
his genius, his gigantic endowments, and really amiable 
virtues. Fixing his ambition on the East, where he 
hoped to rival the achievements of Sir William Jones, 
he at length, about the beginning of 1802, obtained the 
promise of some literary appointment in the East India 
Company's service; but when the time drew near, it was 
discovered that the patronage of the season had been ex- 
hausted, with the exception of one surgeon-assistant's 
commission — which had been with difficulty secured for 
him by Mr. William Dundas; who, moreover, was 
obliged to inform him, that if he accepted it, he must 
be qualified to pass his medical trials within six months. 
This news, which would have crushed any other man's 
hopes to the dust, was only a welcome fillip to the ardor 
of Leyden. He that same hour grappled with a new 
science, in full confidence that whatever ordinary men 
could do in three or four years, his energy could accom- 
plish in as many months ; took his degree accordingly in 
the beginning of 1803, having just before published his 
beautiful poem, the Scenes of Infancy; sailed to India; 
raised for himself, within seven short years, the reputa- 
tion of the most marvellous of Orientalists; and died, 
in the midst of the proudest hopes, at the same age with 
Burns and Byron, in 1811. 

But to return : Leyden was enlisted by Scott in the 
service of Lewis, and immediately contributed a ballad, 
called The Elf-King, to the Tales of Terror. Those 
highly spirited pieces. The Gout of Keildar, Lord Soulis, 
and The Mermaid, were furnished for the original depart- 
ment of Scott's own collection : and the Dissertation on 

i8oo JOHN LEYDEN 303 

Fairies, prefixed to its second volume, "although ar- 
ranged and digested by the editor, abounds with instances 
of such curious reading as Leyden only had read, and 
was originally compiled by him ; " but not the least of his 
labors was in the collection of the old ballads themselves. 
When he first conversed with Ballantyne on the subject 
of the proposed work, and the printer signified his belief 
that a single volume of moderate size would be sufficient 
for the materials, Leyden exclaimed, "Dash it, does 
Mr. Scott mean another thin thing like Goetz of Ber- 
lichingen ? I have more than that in my head myself : 
we shall turn out three or four such volumes at least." 
He went to work stoutly in the realization of these wider 
views. "In this labor," says Scott, "he was equally 
interested by friendship for the editor, and by his own 
patriotic zeal for the honor of the Scottish borders ; and 
both may be judged of from the following circumstance. 
An interesting fragment had been obtained of an ancient 
historical ballad ; but the remainder, to the great disturb- 
ance of the editor and his coadjutor, was not to be recov- 
ered. Two days afterwards, while the editor was sitting 
with some company after dinner, a sound was heard at 
a distance like that of the whistling of a tempest through 
the torn rigging of the vessel which scuds before it. The 
sounds increased as they approached more near; and 
Leyden (to the great astonishment of such of the guests 
as did not know him) burst into the room, chanting the 
desiderated ballad with the most enthusiastic gesture, 
and all the energy of what he used to call the saw-tones 
of his voice. It turned out that he had walked between 
forty and fifty miles and back again, for the sole purpose 
of visiting an old person who possessed this precious 
remnant of antiquity."^ 

Various allusions to the progress of Leyden 's fortunes 
win occur in letters to be quoted hereafter. I may refer 
the reader, for further particulars, to the biographical 

1 Essay on the Life of Leyden — Scott's Miscellaneous Prose Works, vol. iv. 

304 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 29 

sketch by Scott from which the preceding anecdote is 
taken. / Many tributes to his memory are scattered over 
his friend's other works, both prose and verse; and, 
above all, Scott did not forget him when exploring, three 
years after his death, the scenery of his Mermaid : — 

"Scarba's isle, whose tortured shore 
Still rings to Corrievreken's roar, 

And lonely Colonsay ; — 
Scenes sung by bim who sings no more ; 
His bright and brief career is o'er, 

And mute his tuneful strains ; 
Qnench'd is his lamp of varied lore. 
That loved the light of song to pour ; 
A distant and a deadly shore 

Has Leyden's cold remains ! " ^ 

During the years 1800 and 1801, the Minstrelsy 
formed its editor's chief occupation — a labor of love 
truly, if ever such there was; but neither this nor his 
sheriffship interfered with his regular attendance at the 
Bar, the abandonment of which was all this while as far 
as it ever had been from his imagination, or that of any 
of his friends. He continued to have his summer head- 
quarters at Lasswade; and Mr. (now Sir John) Stoddart, 
who visited him there in the course of his Scottish tour,^ 
dwells on "the simple unostentatious elegance of the cot- 
tage, and the domestic picture which he there contem- 
plated — a man of native kindness and cultivated talent, 
passing the intervals of a learned profession amidst scenes 
highly favorable to his poetic inspirations, not in churlish 
and rustic solitude, but in the daily exercise of the most 
precious sympathies as a husband, a father, and a friend." 
His means of hospitality were now much enlarged, and 
the cottage, on a Saturday and Sunday at least, was sel- 
dom without visitors. 

Among other indications of greater ease in his circum- 
stances, which I find in his letter-book, he writes to 

1 Lord of the Isles, Canto iv. st. 11. 

' The accouht of this tour was published in 1801. 


Heber, after his return to London in May, 1800, to re- 
quest his good offices on behalf of Mrs. Scott, who had 
"set her heart on a phaeton, at once strong, and low, 
and handsome, and not to cost more than thirty guineas ; " 
which combination of advantages Heber seems to have 
found by no means easy of attainment. The phaeton 
was, however, discovered; and its spriogs must soon 
have been put to a sufficient trial, for this was "the first 
wheeled carriage that ever penetrated into Liddesdale " — 
namely, in August, 1800. The friendship of the Buc- 
cleuch family now placed better means of research at his 
disposal, and Lord Dalkeith had taken special care that 
there should be a band of pioneers in waiting for his 
orders when he reached Hermitage. 

Though he had not given up Lasswade, his sheriffship 
now made it necessary for him that he should be fre- 
quently in Ettrick Forest. On such occasions he took 
up his lodgings in the little inn at Clovenford, a favorite 
fishing station on the road from Edinburgh to Selkirk. 
From this place he could ride to the county town when- 
ever business required his presence, and he was also 
within a few miles of the vales of Yarrow and Ettrick, 
where he obtained large accessions to his store of ballads. 
It was in one of these excursions that, penetrating beyond 
St. Mary's Lake, he found a hospitable reception at the 
farm of Blackhouse, situated on the Douglas-burn, then 
tenanted by a remarkable family, to which I have already 
made allusion — that of William Laidlaw. He was then 
a very young man, but the extent of his acquirements 
was already as noticeable as the vigor and originality of 
his mind ; and their correspondence, where " Sir " passes, 
at a few bounds, through "Dear Sir," and "Dear Mr. 
Laidlaw," to "Dear Willie," shows how speedily this 
new acquaintance had warmed into a very tender affec- 
tion. Laidlaw' s zeal about the ballads was repaid by 
Scott's anxious endeavors to get him removed from a 
sphere for which, he writes, "it is no flattery to say that 

3o6 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 29 

you are much too good." It was then, and always con- 
tinued to be, his opinion, that his friend was particularly 
qualified for entering with advantage on the study of the 
medical profession; but such designs, if Laidlaw hinlteelf 
ever took them up seriously, were not ultimately perse- 
vered in; and I question whether any worldly success 
could, after all, have overbalanced the retrospect of an 
honorable life spent happily in the open air of nature, 
amidst scenes the most captivating to the eye of genius, 
and in the intimate confidence of, perhaps, the greatest 
of contemporary minds. 

James Hogg spent ten years of his life in the service 
of Mr. Laidlaw's father, but he had passed into that of 
another sheep farmer in a neighboring valley before Scott 
first visited Blackhouse. William Laidlaw and Hogg 
were, however, the most intimate of friends, and the 
former took care that Scott should see, without delay, 
one whose enthusiasm about the minstrelsy of the Forest 
was equal to his own, and whose mother, then an aged 
woman, though she lived many years afterwards, was 
celebrated for having by heart several ballads in a more 
perfect form than any other inhabitant of the vale of 
Ettrick. The personal history of James Hogg must have 
interested Scott even more than any acquisition of that 
sort which he owed to this acquaintance with, perhaps, 
the most remarkable man that ever wore the maud of a 
shepherd. But I need not here repeat a tale which his 
own language will convey to the latest posterity. Under 
the garb, aspect, and bearing of a rude peasant — and 
rude enough he was in most of these things, even after 
no inconsiderable experience of society — Scott found a 
brother poet, a true son of nature and genius, hardly con- 
scious of his powers. He had taught himself to write by 
copying the letters of a printed book as he lay watching 
his flock on the hillside, and had probably reached the 
utmost pitch of his ambition when he first found that his 
artless rhymes could touch the heart of the ewe-milker 

i8oo JAMES HOGG 307 

who partook the shelter of his mantle during the passing 
storm. As yet his naturally kind and simple character 
had not been exposed to any of the dangerous flatteries 
of the world; his heart was pure — his enthusiasm buoy- 
ant as that of a happy child; and well as Scott knew 
that reflection, sagacity, wit, and wisdom, were scattered 
abundantly among the humblest rangers of these pastoral 
solitudes, there was here a depth and a brightness that 
filled him with wonder, combined with a quaintness of 
humor, and a thousand little touches of absurdity, which 
afforded him more entertainment, as I have often heard 
him say, than the best comedy that ever set the pit in 
a roar. 

Scott opened in the same year a correspondence with 
the venerable Bishop of Dromore, who seems, however, 
to have done little more than express a warm interest in 
an undertaking so nearly resembling that which will ever 
keep his own name in remembrance. He had more suc- 
cess in his applications to a more unpromising quarter — 
namely, with Joseph Eitson, the ancient and virulent 
assailant of Bishop Percy's editorial character. This 
narrow-minded, sour, and dogmatical little word-catcher 
had hated the very name of a Scotsman, and was utterly 
incapable of sympathizing with any of the higher views 
of his new correspondent. Yet the bland courtesy of 
Scott disarmed even this half -crazy pedant; and he com- 
municated the stores of his really valuable learning in a 
manner that seems to have greatly surprised all who had 
hitherto held any intefcourse with him on antiquarian 
topics. It astonished, above all, the late amiable and 
elegant George Ellis, whose acquaintance was about the 
same time opened to Scott through their common friend 
Heber. Mr. Ellis was now busily engaged in collecting 
the materials for his charming works, entitled Specimens 
of Ancient English Poetry, and Specimens of Ancient 
English Eomance. The correspondence between him and 
Scott soon came to be constant. They met personally, 

3o8 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 29 

not long after the correspondence had commenced, con- 
ceived for each other a cordial respect and affection, and 
continued on a footing of almost brotherly intimacy ever 
after. To this valuable alliance Scott owed, among other 
advantages, his early and ready admission to the acquaint- 
ance and familiarity of Ellis's bosom friend, his coad- 
jutor in the Anti- Jacobin, and the confidant of all his 
literary schemes, the late illustrious statesman, Mr. Can- 

The first letter of Scott to Ellis is dated March 27, 
1801, and begins thus: "Sir, as I feel myself highly 
flattered by your inquiries, I lose no time in answering 
them to the best of my ability. Your eminence in the 
literary world, and the warm praises of our mutual friend 
Heber, had made me long wish for an opportunity of 
being known to you. I enclose the first sheet of Sir 
Tristrem, that you may not so much rely upon my opin- 
ion as upon that which a specimen of the style and versi- 
fication may enable your better judgment to form for 
itself. . . . These pages are transcribed by Leyden, an 
excellent young man, of uncommon talents, patronized 
by Heber, and who is of the utmost assistance to my 
literary undertakings." 

As Scott's edition of Sir Tristrem did not appear until 
May, 1804, and he and Leyden were busy with the Bor- 
der Minstrelsy when his correspondence with Ellis com- 
menced, this early indication of his labors on the former 
work may require explanation. The truth is, that both 
Scott and Leyden, having eagerly arrived at the belief, 
from which neither of them ever permitted himself to 
falter, that the Sir Tristrem of the Auchinleck MS. 
was virtually, if not literally, the production of Thomas 
the Khymer, laird of Ercildoune in Berwickshire, who 
flourished at the close of the thirteenth century — the 
original intention had been to give it, not only a place, 
but a very prominent one, in the Minstrelsy of the Scot- 
tish Border. The doubts and difficulties which Ellis 


suggested, however, though they did not shake Scott in 
his opinion as to the parentage of the romance, induced 
researches which occupied so much time, and gave birth 
to notes so bulky, that he eventually found it expedient 
first to pass it over in the two volumes of the Minstrelsy 
which appeared in 1802, and then even in the third, 
which followed a year later; thus reserving Tristrem for 
a separate publication, which did not take place until 
after Leyden had sailed for India. 

I must not swell these pages by transcribing the entire 
correspondence of Scott and Ellis, the greater part of 
which consists of minute antiquarian discussion which 
could hardly interest the general reader; but I shall give 
such extracts as seem to throw light on Scott's personal 
history during this period. 


Lasswade Cottage, 20th April, 1801. 
Mr DEAR SiE, — I should long ago have acknow- 
ledged your instrTictive letter, but I have been wandering- 
about in the wilds of Liddesdale and Ettrick Forest, in 
search of additional materials for the Border Minstrelsy. 
I cannot, however, boast much of my success. One of 
our best reciters has turned religious in his later days, 
and finds out that old songs are unlawful. If so, then, 
as Falstaff says, is many an acquaintance of mine damned. 
I now send you an accurate analysis of Sir Tristrem. 
Philo-Tomas, whoever he was, must surely have been an 
Englishman; when his hero joins battle with Moraunt, 
he exclaims — 

" God help Tristrem the Knight, 
He fought for Ingland." 

This strain of national attachment would hardly have 
proceeded from a Scottish author, even though he had 
laid his scene in the sister country. In other respects 
the language appears to be Scottish, and certainly con- 
tains the essence of Tomas's work. . . . You shall have 


Sir Otuel in a week or two, and I shall be happy to 
compare your Romance of Merlin with our Arthur and 
Merlin, which is a very good poem, and may supply you 
with some valuable additions. ... I would very fain 
lend your elephant ^ a lift, but I fear I can be of little 
use to you. I have been rather an observer of detached 
facts respecting antiquities, than a regular student. At 
the same time, I may mention one or two circumstances, 
were it but to place your elephant upon a tortoise. 
From Selkirkshire to Cumberland, we have a ditch and 
bulwark of great strength, called the Catrail, running 
north and south, and obviously calculated to defend the 
western side of the island against the inhabitants of the 
eastern half. Within this bulwark, at Drummelzier, 
near Peebles, we find the grave of Merlin, the account of 
whose madness and death you will find in Fordun. The 

1 This phrase will be best explained by an extract from a letter addressed 
by Sir Walter Scott, on the 12th February, 1830, to William Brockedon, 
Esq., acknowledging that gentleman's courtesy in sending him a copy of 
the beautiful work entitled Passes of the Alps : — 

" My friend the late George Ellis, one of the most accomplished schol- 
ars, and delightful companions whom I haye eyer known, himself a great 
geographer on the most extended and liberal plan, used to tell me an anec- 
dote of the eminent antiquary General Melville, who was crossing the 
Alps, with Liyy and other historical accounts in his post-chaise, determined 
to follow the route of Hannibal. He met Ellis, I forget where at this 
moment, on the western side of that tremendous ridge, and pushed on- 
wards on his journey after a day spent with his brother antiquary. After 
journeying more slowly than his friend, Ellis was astonished to meet Gen- 
eral Melyille coming hiusk. ' What is the matter, my dear friend ? how 
come you back on the journey you had so much at heart ? ' — ' Alas ! ' 
said Melyille, yery dejectedly, ' I would haye got on myself well enough, 
but I could not get my eUphants oyer the pass.' He had, in idea, Hanni- 
bal with his train of elephants in his party. It became a sort of by-word 
between Ellis and me ; and in assisting each other during a close corre- 
spondence of some years, we talked of a lift to the elephants. 

" You, Sir, haye put this theoretical difficulty at an end, and show how, 
without bodily labor, the antiquary may traverse the Alps with his ele- 
phants, without the necessity of a retrograde movement. In giving a dis- 
tinct picture of so interesting a, country as Switzerland, so peculiar in its 
habits and its history, you have added a valuable chapter to the history 
of Europe, in which the Alpine regions make so distinguished a figure. 
Accept my best congi^atulations on achieving so interesting a task." 


same author says he was seized with his madness during 
a dreadful battle on the Liddle, which divides Cumber- 
land from Scotland. All this seems to favor your in- 
genious hypothesis, that the sway of the British Champion 
[Arthur] extended over Cumberland and Strathcluyd, as 
well as Wales. Ercildoune is hardly five miles from the 
Catrail. . . . 

Leyden has taken up a most absurd resolution to go to 
Africa on a journey of discovery. Will you have the 
goodness to beg Heber to write to him seriously on so 
ridiculous a plan, which can promise nothing either plea- 
sant or profitable. I am certain he would get a church 
in Scotland with a little patience and prudence, and it 
gives me great pain to see a valuable young man of un- 
common genius and acquirements fairly throw himself 
away. Yours truly, W. Scott. 


" MtrssELBUEGH, Hth May, 1801. 
..." I congratulate you upon the health of your 
elephants — as an additional mouthful of provender for 
them, pray observe that the tale of Sir Gawain's Foul 
Ladie, in Percy's Keliques, is originally Scaldic, as you 
will see in the history of Hrolf e Kraka, edited by Tor- 
faeus from the ancient Sagas regarding that prince. I 
think I could give you some more crumbs of information 
were I at home; but I am at present discharging the 
duties of quartermaster to a regiment of volunteer cav- 
alry — an office altogether inconsistent with romance; 
for where do you read that Sir Tristrem weighed out hay 
and corn ; that Sir Lancelot du Lac distributed billets ; 
or that any Knight of the Eound Table condescended to 
higgle about a truss of straw? Such things were left for 
our degenerate days, when no warder sounds his horn 
from the barbican as the preux chevalier approaches to 
claim hospitality. Bugles indeed we have ; but it is only 
to scream us out of bed at five in the morning — hospi- 

312 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 29 

tality such as the seneschals of Don Quixote's castles 
were wont to offer him — and all to troopers, to whom, 
for valor eke and courtesy. Major Sturgeon^ himself 
might yield the palm. In the midst of this scene of 
motley confusion, I long, like the hart for water-brooks, 
for the arrival of your grande opus. The nature of your 
researches animates me to proceed in mine (though of a 
much more limited and local nature), even as iron sharp- 
eneth iron. I am in utter despair about some of the 
hunting terms in Sir Tristrem. There is no copy of 
Lady Juliana Berners's work ^ in Scotland, and I would 
move heaven and earth to get a sight of it. But as I 
fear this is utterly impossible, I must have recourse to 
your friendly assistance, and communicate a set of doubts 
and queries, which, if any man in England can satisfy, 
I am well assured it must be you. You may therefore 
expect, in a few days, another epistle. Meantime I 
must invoke the spirit of Nimrod." 

" EonnBUBGH, 10th June, 1801. 
"My dear Sir, — A heavy family misfortune, the loss 
of an only sister in the prime of life, has prevented, for 
some time, my proposed communication regarding the 
hunting terms of Sir Tristrem. I now enclose the pas- 
sage, accurately copied, with such explanations as occur 
to myself, subject always to your correction and better 
judgment. ... I have as yet had only a glance of The 
Specimens. Thomson, to whom Heber entrusted them, 
had left them to follow him from London in a certain 
trunk, which has never yet arrived. I should have quar- 
relled with him excessively for making so little allowance 
for my impatience, had it not been that a violent epi- 
demic fever, to which I owe the loss already mentioned, 
has threatened also to deprive me, in his person, of one of 

1 See Foote's f aroe of Ke Mayor of Oarrat. 

^ The BoJce of St. Albans — first printed in 1486 — reprinted by Mr. 
Haslewood in 1810, 


my dearest friends, and the Scottish literary world of one 
of its most promising members. 

"Some prospect seems to open for getting Leyden out 
to India, under the patronage of Mackintosh, who goes 
as chief of the intended academical establishment at Cal- 
cutta. That he is highly qualified for acting a distin- 
guished part in any literary undertaking will be readily 
granted; nor do I think Mr. Mackintosh will meet with 
many half so likely to be useful in the proposed institu- 
tion. The extent and versatility of his talents would 
soon raise him to his level, even although he were at first 
to go out in a subordinate department. If it be in your 
power to second his application, I rely upon Heber's in- 
terest with you to induce you to do so." 

" Edinburgh, 13th July, 1801. 
. . "I am infinitely obliged to you, indeed, for your 
interference in behalf of our Leyden, who, I am sure, 
wUl do credit to your patronage, and may be of essential 
service to the proposed mission. What a difference from 
broiling himself, or getting himseK literally broiled, in 
Africa. ' Que diable vouloit-il f aire dans cette galere ? ' 
. . . His brother is a fine lad, and is likely to enjoy 
Some advantages which he wanted — I mean by being 
more early introduced into society. I have intermitted 
his transcript of Merlin, and set him to work on Otuel, 
of which I send a specimen." • . . 

"Edinbubqh, 7tli Decemter, 1801. 
. . . "My literary amusements have of late been much 
retarded and interrupted, partly by professional avoca- 
tions, and partly by removing to a house newly furnished, 
where it will be some time before I can get my few 
books put into order, or clear the premises of painters 
and workmen ; not to mention that these worthies do not 
nowadays proceed upon the plan of Solomon's archi- 
tects, whose saws and hammers were not heard, but 

314 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 30 

rather upon the more ancient system of the builders of 
Babel. To augment this confusion^ my wife has fixed 
upon this time as proper to present me with a fine chop- 
ping boy, whose pipe, being of the shrillest, is heard 
amid the storm, like a boatswain's whistle in a gale of 
wind. These various causes of confusion have also inter- 
rupted the labors of young Leyden on your behalf; but 
he has again resumed the task of transcribing Arthour, 
of which I once again transmit a part. I have to ac- 
knowledge, with the deepest sense of gratitude, the beau- 
tiful analysis of Mr. Douce's Fragments, which throws 
great light upon the romance of Sir Tristrem. In ar- 
ranging that, I have anticipated your judicious hint, by 
dividing it into three parts, where the story seems natu- 
rally to pause, and prefixing an accurate argument, refer- 
ring to the stanzas as numbered. 

"I am gl^ that Mrs. Ellis and you have derived any 
amusement from the House of Aspen. It is a very hur- 
ried dramatic sketch; and the fifth act, as yon remark, 
would require a total revisal previous to representation 
or publication. At one time I certainly thought, with my 
friends, that it might have ranked well enough by the 
side of the Castle Spectre, Bluebeard, and the other drum 
and trumpet exhibitions of the day; but the Plays on 
the Passions ^ have put me entirely out of conceit with 
my Germanized brat; and should I ever again attempt 
dramatic composition, I would endeavor after the gen- 
uine old English model. . . . The publication of The 
Complaynt^ is delayed. It is a work of multifarious 
lore. I am truly anxious about Leyden's Indian jour- 
ney, which seems to hang fire. Mr. William Dundas 
was so good as to promise me his interest to get him 

' The first yolnme of Joanna BaiUie's Plays on the Passions appeared in 
1798. Volmne H. followed in 1802. 

'^ The Complaynt of Scotland, written in IB48; with a Preliminary Dis- 
sertation and Glossary, by John Leyden, was pnblished by Constable in Jan- 
nary, 1802. 


appointed Secretary to the Institution ; ^ but whether he 
has succeeded or not, I have not yet learned. The vari- 
ous kinds of distress under which literary men, I mean 
such as have no other profession than letters, must labor, 
in a commercial country, is a great disgrace to society. I 
own to you I always tremble for the fate of .genius when 
left to its own exertions, which, however powerful, are 
usually, by some bizarre dispensation of nature, useful to 
every one but themselves. If Heber could learn by 
Mackintosh, whether anything could bfe done to fix Ley- 
den's situation, and what sort of interest would be most 
likely to succeed, his friends here might unite every ex- 
ertion in his favor. . . . Direct Castle Street, as usual ; 
my new house being in the same street with my old 

" EDiNBTntOH, 8th January, 1802. 
. . . "Your favor arrived just as I was sitting down to 
write to you, with a sheet or two of King Arthur. I 
fear, from a letter which I have received from Mr. Wil- 
liam Dundas, that the Indian Establishment is tottering, 
and will probably fall. Leyden has therefore been in- 
duced to turn his mind to some other mode of making 
his way to the East; and proposes taking his degree as 
a physician and surgeon, with the hope of getting an ap- 
pointment in the Company's Service as surgeon. If the 
Institution goes forward, his having secured this step 
will not prevent his being attached to it; at the same 
time that it will afford him a provision independent of 
what seems to be a very precarious establishment. Mr. 
Dundas has promised to exert himself. ... I have just 
returned from the hospitable halls of Hamilton, where I 
have spent the Christmas." . , . 

" 14th Fehrnary, 1802. 
"I have been silent, but not idle. The transcript of 
King Arthur is at length finished, being a fragment of 
^ A proposed Institntton for parposes of Education at Calcntta. 

3i6 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 30 

about 7000 lines. Let me know how I shall transmit a 
parcel containing it, with The Complaynt and the Border 
Ballads, of which I expect every day to receive some 
copies. I think you will be disappointed in the Ballads. 
I have as yet touched very little on the more remote an- 
tiquities of the Border, which, indeed, my songs, all 
comparatively modern, did not lead me to discuss. Some 
scattered herbage, however, the elephants may perhaps 
find. By the way, you will not forget to notice the 
mountain called Arthur's Seat, which overhangs this 
city. When I was at school, the tradition ran that King 
Arthur occupied as his throne a huge rock upon its sum- 
mit, and that he beheld from thence some naval engage- 
ment upon the Frith of Forth. I am pleasantly inter- 
rupted by the post; he brings me a letter from William 
Dundas, fixing Leyden's appointment as an assistant-sur- 
geon to one of the India setj;lements — which, is not yet 
determined; and another from my printer, a very ingen- 
ious young man, telling me, that he means to escort the 
Minstrelsy up to London in person. I shall, therefore, 
direct him to transmit my parcel to Mr. Nicol." . . . 

" 2d March, 1802. 
"I Aojoe that long ere this, you have received the Bal- 
lads, and that they have afforded you some amusement. I 
hope, also, that the threatened third volume will be more 
interesting to Mrs. Ellis than the dry antiquarian detail 
of the two first could prove. I hope, moreover, that I 
shall have the pleasure of seeing you soon, as some cir- 
cumstances seem not so much to call me to London, as to 
furnish me with a decent apology for coming up some 
time this spring; and I long particularly to say that I 
know my friend Mr. Ellis hy sight as well as intimately. 
I am glad you have seen the Marquess of Lorn, whom I 
have met frequently at the house of his charming sister, 
Lady Charlotte Campbell, whom, I am sure, if you are 
acquainted with her, you must admire as much as I do. 


Her Grace of Gordon, a great admirer of yours, spent 
some dajs here lately, and, like Lord Lorn, was highly 
entertained with an account of our friendship a la dis- 
tance. I do not, nor did I ever, intend to fob you off 
with twenty or thirty lines of the second part of Sir Guy. 
Young Leyden has been much engaged with his studies, 
otherwise you would have long since received what I now 
send, namely, the combat between Guy and Colbronde, 
which I take to be the cream of the romance. ... If 
I do not come to London this spring, I will find a safe 
opportunity of returning Lady Juliana Berners, with my 
very best thanks for the use of her reverence's work." 

The preceding extracts are picked out of letters, 
mostly very long ones, in which Scott discusses questions 
of antiquarian interest, suggested sometimes by Ellis, 
and sometimes by the course of his own researches among 
the MSS. of the Advocates' Library. The passages 
which I have transcribed appear sufficient to give the 
reader a distinct notion of the tenor of Scott's life while 
his first considerable work was in progress through the 
press. \a fact, they place before us in a vivid light the 
chief features of a character which, by this time, was 
completely formed and settled — which had passed un- 
moved through the first blandishments of worldly ap- 
plause, and which no subsequent trials of that sort could 
ever shake from its early balance : His calm delight in 
his own pursuits — the patriotic enthusiasm which min- 
gled with all the best of his literary efforts ; his modesty 
as to his own general merits, combined with a certain 
dogged resolution to maintain his own first view of a 
subject, however assailed; his readiness to interrupt his 
own tasks by any drudgery by which he could assist those 
of a friend ; his steady and determined watchfulness over 
the struggling fortunes of young genius and worth. 

The reader has seen that he spent the Christmas of 
1801 at Hamilton Palace, in Lanarkshire. To Lady 

3i8 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 30 

Anne Hamilton he had been introduced by her friend, 
Lady Charlotte Campbell, and both the late and the 
present Dukes of Hamilton appear to have partaken of 
Lady Anne's admiration for Glenfinlas and The Eve of 
St. John. A morning's ramble to the majestic ruins 
of the old baronial castle on the precipitous banks of the 
Evan, and among the adjoining remains of the primeval 
Caledonian forest, suggested to him a ballad, not inferior 
in execution to any that he had hitherto produced, and 
especially interesting as the first in which he grapples 
with the world of picturesque incident unfolded in the 
authentic annals of Scotland. With the magnificent 
localities before him, he skilfully interwove the daring 
assassination of the Begent Murray by one of the clans- 
men of "the princely Hamilton." Had the subject been 
taken up in after-years, we might have had another 
Marmion or Heart of Mid-Lothian; for in Cadyow Cas- 
tle we have the materials and outline of more than one 
of the noblest of ballads. 

About two years before this piece began to be handed 
about in Edinburgh, Thomas Campbell had made his 
appearance there, and at once seized a high place in the 
literary world by his Pleasures of Hope. Among tha,^ 
most eager to welcome him had been Scott; and I find 
the brother-bard thus expressing himself concerning the 
MS. of Cadyow : — 

"The verses of Cadyow Castle are perpetually ringing 
in my imagination — 

' WHere, mightiest of the heasts of chase 
That Toam in -woody Caledon, 
Crashing the forest in his race, 
The mountain bull comes thnudeiing on — ' 

and the arrival of Hamilton, when 

' Beeldng from the recent deed, 

He dashed his carbine on the gronnd.' 

I have repeated these lines so often on the North Bridge 


that the whole fraternity of coachmen know me by tongue 
as I pass. To be sure, to a mind in sober, serious street- 
walking humor, it must bear an appearance of lunacy 
when one stamps with the hurried pace and fervent shake 
of the head, which strong, pithy poetry excites." 

Scott finished Cadyow Castle before the last sheets of 
the second volume of his Minstrelsy had passed through 
the press; but "the two volumeg," as Ballantyne says, 
"were already full to overflowing; " so it was reserved 
for the "threatened third." The two volumes appeared 
in the course of January, 1802, from the respectable house 
of Cadell and Davies, in the Strand; and, owing to the 
cold reception of Lewis's Tales of Wonder, which had 
come forth a year earlier, these may be said to have first 
introduced Scott as an original writer to the English 

In his Kemarks on the Imitation of Popular Poetry, 
he says: "Owing to the failure of the vehicle I had 
chosen, my first efforts to present myself before the pub- 
lic as an original writer proved as vain as those by which 
I had previously endeavored to distinguish myself as a 
translator. Like Lord Home, however, at the battle of 
Flodden, I did so far well, that I was able to stand and 
save myself; and amidst the general depreciation of the 
Tales of Wonder, my small share of the obnoxious pub- 
lication was dismissed without censure, and in some cases 
obtained praise from the critics. The consequences of 
my escape made me naturally more daring, and I at- 
tempted in my own name, a collection of ballads of vari- 
ous kinds, both ancient and modern, to be connected by 
the common tie of relation to the Border districts in 
which I had collected them. The edition was curious, 
as being the first example of a work printed by my friend 
and schoolfellow, Mr. James Ballantyne, who at that 
period was editor of a provincial paper. When the book 
came out, the imprint, Kelso, was read with wonder by 
amateurs of typography, who had never heard of such 

320 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 30 

a place, and were astonished at the example of handsome 
printing which so obscure a town had produced. As for 
the editorial part of the task, my attempt to imitate the 
plan and style of Bishop Percy, observing only more 
strict fidelity concerning my originals, was favorably re- 
ceived by the public." 

The first edition of Volumes I. and II. of the Min- 
strelsy consisted of eight hundred copies, fifty of which 
were on large paper. One of the embellishments was 
a view of Hermitage Castle, the history of which is rather 
curious. Scott executed a rough sketch of it during the 
last of his "Liddesdale raids" with Shortreed, standing 
for that purpose for an hour or more up to his middle in 
the snow. Nothing can be ruder than the performance, 
which I have now before me; but his friend William 
Clerk made a better drawing from it; and from his, a 
third and further improved copy was done by Hugh Wil- 
liams, the elegant artist, afterwards known as "Greek 
Williams."^ Scott used to say, the oddest thing of all 
was, that the engraving, founded on the labors of three 
draughtsmen, one of whom could not draw a straight 
line, and the two others had never seen the place meant 
to be represented, was nevertheless pronounced by the 
natives of Liddesdale to give a very fair notion of the 
ruins of Hermitage. 

The edition was exhausted in the course of the year, 
and the terms of publication having been that Scott 
should have half the clear profits, his share was exactly 
£18 10s. — a sum which certainly could not have repaid 
him for the actual expenditure incurred in the collection 
of his materials. Messrs. Cadell and Davies, however, 
complained, and probably with good reason, that a pre- 
mature advertisement of a "second and improved edition " 
had rendered some copies of the first unsalable. 

I shall transcribe the letter in which Mr. George Ellis 
acknowledges the receipt of his copy of the book : — 

1 Mr. Williams's TraTels in Italy and Greece -were published in 1820. 



SuNNOfo Hill, March 5, 1802. 

Mt dear Sir, — The volumes are arrived, and I have been 
devouring them, not as a pig does a parcel of grains (by which 
simile you -mil judge that I must be brewing, as indeed I am), 
putting in its snout, shutting its eyes, and swallowing as fast as 
it can without consideration — but as a schoolboy does a piece 
of gingerbread ; nibbling a little bit here, and a little bit there, 
smacking his lips, surveying the number of square inches which 
stUl remain for his gratification, endeavoring to look it into 
larger dimensions, and making at every mouthful a tacit vow 
to protract his enjoyment by restraining his appetite. Now, 
therefore — but no ! I must first assure you on the part of 
Mrs. E., that if you cannot, or will not come to England soon, 
she must gratify her curiosity and gratitude, by setting off for 
Scotland, though at the risk of being tempted to puU caps with 
Mrs. Scott when she arrives at the end of her journey. Next, 
I must request you to convey to Mr. Leyden my very sincere 
acknowledgment for his part of the precious parcel. How 
truly vexatious that such a man should embark, not for the 
" fines Atticse," but for those of Asia ; that the genius of Scot- 
land, instead of a poor Com/plaint, and an address in the style 
of " Navis, quae tibi creditum debes Virgilium — reddas inco- 
lumem, precor," should not interfere to prevent his loss. I wish 
to hope that we should, as Sterne says, " manage these matters 
better " in England ; but now, as regret is unavailing, to the 
main point of my letter. 

You will not, of course, expect that I should as yet give 
you anything like an opinion, as a critic, of your volumes ; first, 
because you have thrown into my throat a cate of such magni- 
tude that Cerberus, who had three throats, could not have swal- 
lowed a third part of it without shutting his eyes ; and secondly, 
because, although I have gone a little farther than George Nicol 
the bookseller, who cannot cease exclaiming, " What a beautiful 
book ! " and is distracted with jealousy of your Kelso Buhner, yet, 
as I said before, I have not been able yet to digest a great deal 
of your Border Minstrelsy. I have, however, taken such a sur- 
vey as satisfies me that your plan is neither too comprehensive 

322 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 30 

nor too contracted ; that the parts are properly distinct ; and 
that they are (to preserve the painter's metaphor) made out 
just as they ought to be. Your introductory chapter is, I think, 
particularly good ; and I was much pleased, although a little 
surprised, at finding that it was made to serve as a recueil des 
pihces justificatives to your view of the state of manners among 
your Borderers, which I venture to say will be more thumbed 
than any part of the volume. 

You wlU easily believe that I cast many an anxious look 
for the annimciation of Sir Tristrem, and wiU not be surprised 
that I was at first rather disappointed at not finding anything 
like a solemn engagement to produce him to the world within 
some fixed and limited period. Upon reflection, however, I 
really think you have judged wisely, and that you have best 
promoted the interests of literature, by sending, as the harhing&r 
of the Knight of Leonais, a collection which must form a par- 
lor-window book in every house in Britain which contains a 
parlor and a window. I am happy to find my old favorites in 
their natural situation — indeed in the only situation which can 
enable a Southern reader to estimate their merits. You re- 
member what somebody said of the Prince de Condi's army 
during the wars of the Fronde, namely, — " that it would be a 
very fine army whenever it came of age." Of the Murrays and 
Armstrongs of your Border Ballads, it might be said that they 
might grow, when the age of good taste should arrive, to a 
Glenfinlas or an Eve of St. John. Leyden's additional poems 
are also very beautiful. I meant, at setting out, a few simple 
words of thanks, and behold I have written a letter ; but no 
matter — I shall return to the charge after a more attentive 
perusal. Ever yours very faithfully, 6. Ellis. 

I might fill many pages by transcribing similar letters 
from persons of acknowledged discernment in this branch 
of literature; John, Duke of Eoxburghe, is among the 
number, and he conveys also a complimentary message 
from the late Earl Spencer; Pinkerton issues his decree 
of approbation as ex cathedra ; Chalmers overflows with 
heartier praise; and even Joseph Ritson extols his pre- 
sentation copy as "the most valuable literary treasure in 

i8o2 MISS SEWARD 323 

his possession." There follows enough of female admi- 
ration to have been dangerous for another man ; a score 
of fine ladies contend who shall be the most extravagant 
in encomium — and as many professed blue stockings 
come after ; among or rather above the rest, Anna Sew- 
ard, "the Swan of Lichfield," who laments that her 
"bright luminary," Darwin, does not survive to partake 
her raptures; — observes, that "in the Border Ballads 
the first strong rays of the Delphic orb illuminate Jellon 
Graeme;" and concludes with a fact indisputable, but 
strangely expressed, namely, that "the Lady Anne Both- 
well's Lament, Cowdenknowes, etc., etc., climatically 
preceded the treasures of Burns, and the consummate 
Glenfinlas and Eve of St. John." Scott felt as acutely 
as any malevolent critic the pedantic affectations of Miss 
Seward's epistolary style, but in her case sound sense as 
well as vigorous ability had unfortunately condescended 
to an absurd disguise; he looked below it, and was far 
from confounding her honest praise with the flat superla- 
tives either of wordy parrots or weak enthusiasts. 




The approbation with which the first two volumes of 
the Minstrelsy were received stimulated Scott to fresh 
diligence in the preparation of a third; while Sir Tris- 
trem — it being now settled that this romance should 
form a separate volume — was transmitted, without de- 
lay, to the printer at Kelso. As early as March 30, 
1802, Ballantyne, who had just returned from London, 
writes thus : — 


Dear Sir, — By to-morrow's Fly I shall send the remaining 
materials for Minstrelsy, together with three sheets of Sir 
Tristrem. ... I shall ever think the printing the Scottish 
Minstrelsy one of the most fortunate circmnstances of my life. 
I have gained, not lost by it, in a pecuniary light ; and the 
prospects it has been the means of opening to me may advan- 
tageously influence my future destiny. I can never be suffi- 
ciently grateful for the interest you unceasingly take in my wel- 
fare. Your query respecting Edinburgh, I am yet at a loss 
to answer. To say truth, the expenses I have incurred in my 

i8o2 TO MISS SEWARD 325 

resolution to acquire a character for elegant printing, whatever 
might be the result, cramp considerably my present exertions. 
A short time, I trust, will make me easier, and I shall then 
contemplate the road before me with a steady eye. One thing 
alone is clear — that Kelso cannot be my abiding place for aye ; 
sooner or later, emigrate I must and will ; but, at all events, I 
must wait till my plumes are grown. I am. Dear Sir, your 
faithful and obliged J. B. 

On learning that a third volume of the Minstrelsy was 
in progress, Miss Seward forwarded to the editor Rich 
Auld Willie's Farewell, a Scotch ballad of her own man- 
ufacture, meaning, no doubt, to. place it at his disposal, 
for the section of Imitations. His answer (dated Edin- 
burgh, June 29, 1802), after many compliments to the 
Auld Willie, of which he made the use that had been 
intended, proceeds as follows : — 

"I have some thoughts of attempting a Border ballad 
in the comic manner ; but I almost despair of bringing it 
well out. A certain Sir William Scott, from whom I 
am descended, was ill-advised enough to plunder the estate 
of Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank, ancestor to the present 
Lord Elibank. The marauder was defeated, seized, and 
brought in fetters to the castle of Elibank, upon the 
Tweed. The Lady Murray (agreeably to the custom of 
all ladies in ancient tales) was seated on the battlements, 
and descried the return of her husband with bis prisoner. 
She immediately inquired what he meant to do with the 
young Knight of Harden, which was the petit titre of 
Sir William Scott. ' Hang the robber, assuredly, ' was 
the answer of Sir Gideon. ' What! ' answered the lady, 
' hang the handsome young knight of Harden, when I 
have three ill-favored daughters unmarried ! No, no. Sir 
Gideon, we '11 force him to marry our Meg.' Now tra- 
dition says that Meg Murray was the ugliest woman in 
the four counties, and that she was called) in the homely 
dialect of the time, meikle-mouthed Meg. (I will not 

326 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 30 

affront you by an explanation.) ^ Sir Gideon, like a good 
husband and tender father, entered into his wife's senti- 
ments, and proffered to Sir William the alternative of 
becoming his son-in-law, or decorating with his carcase 
the kindly gallows of Elibank. The lady was so very 
ugly, that Sir William, the handsomest man of his time, 
positively refused the honor of her hand. Three days 
were allowed him to make up his mind; and it was not 
until he found one end of a rope made fast to his neck, 
and the other knitted to a sturdy oak bough, that his 
resolution gave way, and he preferred an ugly wife to the 
literal noose. It is said they were afterwards a very 
happy couple. She had a curious hand at pickling the 
beef which he stole; and, marauder as he was, he had 
little reason to dread being twitted by the pawky gowk. 
This, either by its being perpetually told to me when 
young, or by a perverted taste for such anecdotes, has 
always struck me as a good subject for a comic ballad, 
and how happy should I be were Miss Seward to agree 
in opinion with me. 

"This little tale may serve for an introduction to some 
observations I have to offer upon our popular poetry. It 
will at least so far disclose your correspondent's weak 
side, as to induce you to make allowance for my mode 
of arguing. Much of its pecidiar charm is indeed, I be- 
lieve, to be attributed solely to its loccdity. A very 
commonplace and obvious epithet, when applied to a 
scene which we have been accustomed to view with plea- 
sure, recalls to us not merely the local scenery, but a 
thousand little nameless associations, which we are unable 
to separate or to define. In some verses of that eccen- 
tric but admirable poet, Coleridge, he talks of 

■ An old rude tale that suited well 
The ruins mid and hoary.' 

' It is commonly said that all Meg's descendants have inherited some- 
thing of her characteristic feature. The Poet certainly was no exception 
to the rule. 

i8o2 TO MISS SEWARD 327 

I think there are few who have not been in some degree 
touched with this local sympathy. Tell a peasant an 
ordinary tale of robbery and murder, and perhaps you 
may fail to interest him; but to excite his terrors, you 
assure him it happened on the very heath he usually 
crosses, or to a man whose family he has known, and you 
rarely meet such a mere image of Humanity as remains 
entirely unmoved. I suspect it is pretty much the same 
with myself, and many of my countrymen, who are 
charmed by the effect of local description, and sometimes 
impute that effect to the poet, which is produced by the 
recollections and associations which his verses excite. 
Why else did Sir Philip Sidney feel that the tale of 
Percy and Douglas moved him like the sound of a trum- 
pet? or why is it that a Swiss sickens at hearing the 
famous Kanz des Vaches, to which the native of any other 
country would have listened for a hundred days, without 
any other sensation than ennui? I fear our poetical taste 
is in general much more linked with our prejudices of 
birth, of education, and of habitual thinking, than our 
vanity will allow us to suppose; and that, let the point 
of the poet's dart be as sharp as that of Cupid, it is the 
wings lent it by the fancy and prepossessions of the gen- 
tle reader which carry it to the mark. It may appear 
like great egotism to pretend to illustrate my position 
from the reception which the productions of so mere a 
ballad-monger as myself have met with from the public; 
but I cannot help observing that all Scotchmen prefer 
The Eve of St. John to Glenfinlas, and most of my 
English friends entertain precisely an opposite opinion. 
... I have been writing this letter by a paragraph at a 
time for about a month, this being the season when we 
are most devoted to the 

' Drowsy bench and babbling hall.' 
"I have the honor," etc., etc. . . . 

Miss Seward, in her next letter, offers an apology for 

328 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 30 

not having sooner begged Scott to place her name among 

the subscribers to his third volume. His answer is in 

these words : — 

"Lasbwade, Jnly, 1802. 

"I am very sorry to have left you under a mistake 
about my third volume. The truth is, that highly as I 
should feel myself flattered by the encouragement of Miss 
Seward's name, I cannot, in the present instance, avail 
myseK of it, as the Ballads are not published by sub- 
scription. Providence having, I suppose, foreseen that 
my literary qualifications, like those of many more dis- 
tinguished persons, might not, par haaa/rd, support me 
exactly as I would like, allotted me a small patrimony, 
which, joined to my professional income, and my ap- 
pointments in the characteristic office of Sheriff of Et- 
trick Forest, serves to render my literary pursuits more 
a matter of amusement than an object of emolument. 
With this explanation, I hope you will honor me by 
accepting the third volume as soon as published, which 
will be in the beginning of next year, and I also hope, 
that under the circumstances, you will hold me acquitted 
of the silly vanity of wishing to be thought a gentleman- 

"The ballad of The Reiver's Wedding is not yet writ- 
ten, but I have finished one of a tragic cast, founded upon 
the death of Begent Murray, who was shot in Linlithgow, 
by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh. The following 
verses contain the catastrophe, as told by Hamilton him- 
self to his chief and his kinsmen : — 

' With hackbut bent,' etc., etc. 

"This Bothwellhaugh has occupied such an unwarrant- 
able proportion of my letter, that I have hardly time to 
teU you how much I join in your admiration of Tam o' 
Shanter, which I verily believe to be inimitable, both in 
the serious and ludicrous parts, as well as the singularly 


happy combination of both. I request Miss Seward to 
beKeve," etc. 

The Eeiver's Wedding never was completed, but I 
have found two copies of its commencement, and I shall 
make no apologies for inserting here what seems to have 
been the second one. It will be seen that he had meant 
to mingle with Sir William's capture, Auld Wat's Foray 
of the Bassened Bull, and the Feast of Spurs ; and that, 
I know not for what reason, Lochwood, the ancient for- 
tress of the Johnstones in Annandale, has been substi- 
tuted for the real locality of his ancestor's drum-head 
Wedding Contract: — 


O will ye hear a mirtlifnl bonrd ? 

Or will ye hear of conrtesie ? 
Or will ye hear how a gallant lord 

Was wedded to a gay ladye ? 

" Ca' out the kye," quo the -village herd, 

As he stood on the knowe, 
" Ca' this ane's nine and that ane's ten, 

And hanld Lord William's cow." 

" Ah ! by my sooth," qnoth William then, 
" And stands it that way now. 
When knave and chorl have nine and ten. 
That the Lord has hnt his cow ? 

" I swear by the light of the Michaelmas moon 
And the might of Mary high, 
And by the edge of my braidsword brown, 
They shall soon say Harden's kye." 

He took a bngle frae his side, 

With names carved o'er and o'er — 
Full many a chief of meikle pride, 

That Border bngle bore — ^ 

He blew a note baith sharp and hie, 
Till rock and water rang aronnd — 

1 This celebrated horn is still in the possession of Lord Polwarth. 

330 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 30 

Three-score of moss-troopers and three 
Have mounted at that bugle sound. 

The Michaelmas moon had entered then, 

And ere she wan the full, 
Te might see by her light in Harden glen 

A bow o' kye and a bassened bull. 

And loud and loud in Harden tower 

The qnaigh gaed round wi' meikle glee, 
For the English beef was brought in bower, 

And the English ale flowed merrilie. 

And mony a guest from TeTiotside 

And Yarrow's Braes were there ; 
Was never a lord in Scotland wide 

That made more dainty fare. 

They ate, they laugh'd, they sang and quafi'd, 

Till nought on board was seen, 
When knight and squire were boune to dine. 

But a spur of silver sheen. 

Lord William has ta'en his berry brown steed — 
A sore sbent man was he ; 
" Wait ye, my guests, a little speed — 
Weel feasted ye shall be." 

He rode him down by Falsehope bom, 

His cousin dear to see. 
With him to take a riding turn — 

Wat-draw-the-sword was he. 

And when he came to Falsehope glen, 

Beneath the trysting tree. 
On the smooth green was carved pl^,^ 

" To Lochwood bound are we." 

" if they be gane to dark Lochwood 
To drive the Warden's gear, 
Betwixt our names, I ween, there 's fend ; 
I '11 go and have my share : 

' " At Linton, in Roxburghshire, there is a circle of stones surroond- 
ii^ a smooth plot of turf, called the Tryst, or place of appointment, which 
tradition avers to have been the rendezvous of the neighboring warriors. 
The name of the leader was cut in the turf, and the arrangement of the 
letters announced to his followers the course which he had taken." — Litro- 
duction to the Minstrdsy, p. 185, 


" For little reck I for Johnstone's fend, 
The Warden though he be." 
So Loid William is away to dark Lochwood, 
With riders barely three. 

The Warden's daughters in Lochwood sate, 

Were all both fair and gay. 
All save the Lady Margaret, 

And she was wan and wae. 

The sister, Jean, had a full fair skin. 

And Grace was bauld and braw ; 
But the leal-fast heart her breast within 

It weel was worth them a'. 

Her father 's pranked her sisters twa 

With meikle joy and pride ; 
But Margaret maun seek Dnndrennan's wa' — 

She ne'er can be a bride. 

On spear and casque by gallants gent 

Her sisters' scarfs were borne, 
But never at tilt or tournament 

Were Margaret's colors worn. 

Her sisters rode to Thirlstane bower, 

But she was left at hame 
To wander round the gloomy tower. 

And sigh young Harden's name. 

" Of all the knights, the knights most fair. 
From Yarrow to the Tyne," 
Soft sighed the maid, " is Harden's heir, 
But ne'er can he be mine ; 

" Of all the maids, the foulest maid 
From Teviot to the Dee, 
Ah ! " sighing sad, that lady said, 
" Can ne'er young Harden's be." — 

She looked up the briery glen. 

And up the mossy brae. 
And she saw a score of her father's men 

Tclad ia the Johnstone grey. 

O fast and fast they downwards sped 
The moss and briers among, 

33^ SIR WALTER SCOTT /et. 31 

And in the midst the troopeis led 
A shackled knight along. 

As soon as the autumn vacation set Scott at liberty, 
he proceeded to the Borders with Leyden. "We have 
just concluded," he tells Ellis on his return to Edinburgh, 
"an excursion of two or three weeks through my jurisdic- 
tion of Selkirkshire, where, in defiance of mountains, 
rivers, and bogs damp and dry, we have penetrated the 
very recesses of Ettrick Forest, to which district if I ever 
have the happiness of welcoming you, you will be con- 
vinced that I am truly the sheriff of the ' cairn and the 
scaur. ' In the course of our grand tour, besides the risks 
of swamping and breaking our necks, we encountered 
the formidable hardships of sleeping upon peat-stacks, 
and eating mutton slain by no common butcher, but 
deprived of life by the judgment of God, as a coroner's 
inquest would express themselves. I have, however, not 
only escaped safe ' per varios casus, per tot discrimina 
rerum,' but returned loaded with the treasures of oral 
tradition. The principal result of our inquiries has been 
a complete and perfect copy of ' Maitland with his Auld 
Berd Graie, ' referred to by Douglas in his Palice of Hon- 
our, along with John the Eeef and other popular char- 
acters, and celebrated also in the poems from the Mait- 
land MS. You may guess the surprise of Leyden and 
myself when this was presented to us, copied down from 
the recitation of an old shepherd, by a country farmer, 
and with no greater corruptions than might be supposed 
to be introduced by the lapse of time, and the ignorance 
of reciters. I don't suppose it was originally composed 
later than the days of Blind Harry. Many of the old 
words are retained, which neither the reciter nor the cop- 
ier understood. Such are the military engines sowies, 
springwalls (springalds), and many others. Though the 
poetical merit of this curiosity is not striking, yet it has 
an odd energy and dramatic effect." 


A few weeks later, lie thus answers Ellis's inquiries 
as to the progress of the Sir Tristrem: "The worthy 
knight is still in embryo, though the whole poetry is 
printed. The fact is, that a second edition of the Min- 
strelsy has been demanded more suddenly than I ex- 
pected, and has occujpied my immediate attention. I 
have also my third volume to compile and arrange; for 
the Minstrelsy is now to be completed altogether inde- 
pendent of the jpreux chevalier, who might hang heavy 
upon its skirts. I assure you my Continuation is mere 
doggerel, not poetry — it is argued in the, same division 
with Thomas's own production, and therefore not worth 
sending. However, you may depend on having the whole 
long before publication. I have derived much informa- 
tion from Turner: he combines the knowledge of the 
Welsh and northern authorities, and, in despite of a most 
detestable Gihhonism, his book is interesting.^ I intend 
to study the Welsh triads before I finally commit my- 
self on the subject of Border poetry. ... As for Mr. 
Eitson, he and I still continue on decent terms; and, in 
truth, he makes patte de vdours ; but I dread I shall see 
' a whisker first and then a claw ' stretched out against 
my unfortunate lucubrations. Ballantyne, the Kelso 
printer, who has a book of his in hand, groans in spirit 
over the peculiarities of his orthography, which, sooth to 
say, hath seldom been equalled since the days of Elphin- 
stone, the ingenious author of the mode of spelling ac- 
cording to the pronunciation, which he aptly termed 
' Propriety ascertained in her Picture. ' I fear the re- 
mark of Festus to St. Paul might be more justly applied 
to this curious investigator of antiquity, and it is a pity 
such research should be rendered useless by the infirmi- 
ties of his temper. I have lately had from him a copie 
of Ye litel wee Mon, of which I think I can make some 
use. In return, I have sent him a sight of Auld Mait- 

1 The first part of Mr. Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons was 
published in 1799 ; the second in 1801. 

334 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 31 

land, the original MS. If you are curious, I dare say 
you may easily see it. Indeed, I might easily send you 
a transcribed copy, — but I wish him to see it in puris 

Eitson had visited Lasswade in the course of this au- 
tumn, and his conduct had been such as to render the 
precaution here alluded to very proper in the case of one 
who, like Scott, was resolved to steer clear of the feuds 
and heartburnings that gave rise to such scandalous 
scenes among the other antiquaries of the day. Leyden 
met Eitson at the cottage, and, far from imitating his 
host's forbearance, took a pleasure of tormenting the 
half -mad pedant by every means in his power. Among 
other circumstances, Scott delighted to detail the scene 
that occurred when his two uncouth allies first met at 
dinner. Well knowing Kitson's holy horror of all ani- 
mal food, Leyden complained that the joint on the table 
was overdone. "Indeed, for that matter," cried he, 
"meat can never be too little done, and raw is best of 
all." He sent to the kitchen accordingly for a plate of 
literally raw beef, and manfully ate it up, with no sauce 
but the exquisite ruefulness of the Pythagorean's glances. 

Mr. Eobert Pearse Gillies, a gentleman of the Scotch 
Bar, well known, among other things, for some excellent 
translations from the German, was present at the cottage 
another day, when Eitson was in Scotland. He has 
described the whole scene in the second section of his 
EecoUections of Sir Walter Scott, — a set of papers in 
which many inaccurate statements occur, but which con- 
vey, on the whole, a lively impression of the persons 
introduced.^ "In approaching the cottage," he says, 
"I was struck with the exceeding air of neatness that 
prevailed around. The hand of tasteful cultivation had 
been there, and all methods employed to convert an ordi- 

^ These papers appeared in Fraser's Magazine iat September, Novem- 
ber, and December, 1835, and January, 1836. [They were reissued in an 
enlarged form in a little volume in 1837.] 

1 862 LASSWADE 33 s 

nary thatched cottage into a handsome and comfortable 
abode. The doorway was in an angle formed by the 
original old cabin and the additional rooms which had 
been built to it. In a moment I had passed through the 
lobby, and found myself in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. 
Scott, and Mr. William Erskine. At this early period, 
Scott was more like the portrait, by Saxon, engraved for 
the first edition of The Lady of the Lake, than to any 
subsequent picture. He retained in features and form 
an impress of that elasticity and youthful vivacity, which 
he used to complain wore off after he was forty, and by 
his own account was exchanged for the plodding heavi- 
ness of an operose student. He had now, indeed, some- 
what of a boyish gayety of look, and in person was tall, 
slim, and extremely active. On my entrance, he was 
seated at a table near the window, and occupied in tran- 
scribing from an old MS. volume into his commonplace 
book. As to costume, he was carelessly attired' in a 
widely made shooting-dress, with a colored handkerchief 
round his neck; the very antithesis of style usually 
adopted either by student or barrister. ' Hah ! ' he ex- 
claimed, 'welcome, thrice welcome! for we are just pro- 
posing to have lunch, and then a long, long walk through 
wood and wold, in which I am sure you will join us. 
But no man can thoroughly appreciate the pleasure of 
such a life who has not known what it is to rise spiritless 
in a morning, and daidle out half the day in the Parlia- 
ment House, where we must all compear within another 
fortnight; then to spend the rest of one's time in apply- 
ing proofs to condescendences, and hauling out papers 
to bamboozle judges, most of whom are daized enough 
already. What say you, Counsellor Erskine? Come — 
alia guerra — rouse, and say whether you are for a walk 
to-day. ' — ' Certainly, in such fine weather I don't see 
what we can propose better. It is the last I shall see of 
the country this vacation.' — 'Nay, say not so, man; we 
shall all be merry twice and once yet before the evil days 

336 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 31 

arrive.' — ' I 'U tell you what I have thought o£ this half- 
hour : it is a plan of mine to rent a cottage and a cab- 
bage-garden — not here, but somewhere farther out of 
town, and never again, after this one session, to enter 
the Parliament House.' — 'And you '11 ask Kitson, per- 
haps,' said Scott, ' to stay with you, and help to consume 
the cabbages. Rest assured we shall both sit on the 
bench one day ; but, heigho ! we shall both have become 
very old and philosophical by that time.' — ' Did you not 
expect Lewis here this morning?' — 'Lewis, I venture 
to say, is not up yet, for he dined at Dalkeith yesterday, 
and of course found the wine very good. Besides, you 
know, I have entrusted him with Finella till his own 
steed gets well of a sprain, and he could not join our 
walking excursion. — I see you are admiring that broken 
sword, ' he added, addressing me, ' and your interest 
would increase if you knew how much labor was required 
to bring it into my possession. In order to grasp that 
mouldering weapon, I was obliged to drain the well at 
the Castle of Dunnottar. But it is time to set out; and 
here is one friend ' (addressing himself to a large dog) 
' who is very impatient to be in the field. He tells me 
he knows where to find a hare in the woods of Mavis- 
bank. And here is another ' (caressing a terrier), ' who 
longs to have a battle with the weasels and water-rats, 
and the foumart that wons near the caves of Gorthy : so 
let us be off.'" 

Mr. Gillies tells us that in the course of their walk to 
Eosslyn, Scott's foot slipped, as he was scrambling to- 
wards a cave on the edge of a precipitous bank, and that, 
"had there been no trees in the way, he must have been 
killed, but midway he was stopped by a large root of 
hazel, when, instead of struggling, which would have 
made matters greatly worse, he seemed perfectly resigned 
to his fate, and slipped through the tangled thicket till 
he lay flat on the river's brink. He rose in an instant 
from his recumbent attitude, and with a hearty laugh 

i8oa RITSON— LEYDEN 337 

called out, ' Now, let me see who else will do the like. ' 
He scrambled up the cliff with alacrity, and entered the 
cave, where we had a long dialogue." 

Even after he was an old and hoary man, he contin- 
ually encountered such risks with the same recklessness. 
The extraordinary strength of his hands and arms was 
his great reliance in all such difficulties, and if he could 
see anything to lay hold of, he was afraid of no leap, or 
rather hop, that came in his way. Mr. Gillies says that 
when they drew near the famous chapel of Eosslyn, Er- 
skine expressed a hope that they might, as habitual vis- 
itors, escape hearing the usual endless story of the silly 
old woman that showed the ruins; but Scott answered, 
"There is a pleasure in the song which none but the 
songstress knows, and by telling her we know it all al- 
ready, we should make the poor devil unhappy." 

On their return to the cottage, Scott inquired for the 
learned cabhage-eater, meaning Eitson, who had been 
expected to dinner. "Indeed," answered his wife, "you 
may be happy he is not here, he is so very disagreeable. 
Mr. Leyden, I believe, frightened him away." It turned 
out that it was even so. When Ritson appeared, a 
round of cold beef was on the luncheon-table, and Mrs. 
Scott, forgetting his peculiar creed, offered him a slice. 
"The antiquary, in his indignation, expressed himself in 
such outrageous terms to the lady, that Leyden first tried 
to correct him by ridicule, and then, on the madman 
growing more violent, became angry in his turn, till at 
last he threatened, that if he were not silent, he would 
thraw his- neck. Scott shook his head at this recital, 
which Leyden observing, grew vehement in his own jus- 
tification. Scott said not a word in reply, but took up a 
large bunch of feathers fastened to a stick, denominated 
a duster, and shook it about the student's ears till he 
laughed — then changed the subject." 

All this is very characteristic of the parties. Scott's 
playful aversion to dispute was a trait in his mind and 

338 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 31 

manners that could alone have enabled him to make use 
at one and the same time, and for. the same purpose, of 
two such persons as Bitson and Leyden. 

To return to Ellis. In answer to Scott's letter last 
quoted, he urged him to make Sir Tristrem volume Jburth 
of the Minstrelsy. "As to his hanging heavy on hand," 
says he, "I admit, that as a separate publication he may 
do so, but the Minstrelsy is now established as a library 
book, and in this bibliomaniac age no one would think 
it perfect without the preux chevalier, if you avow the 
said chevalier as your adopted son. Let him, at least, 
be printed in the same size and paper, 'and then I am 
persuaded our booksellers will do the rest fast enough, 
upon the credit of your reputation." Scott replies (No- 
vember) that it is now too late to alter the fate of Sir 
Tristrem. "Longman, of Paternoster Kow, has been 
down here in summer, and purchased the copyright of 
the Minstrelsy. Sir Tristrem is a separate property, but 
will be on the same scale in point of size." 

The next letter introduces to Ellis's personal acquaint- 
ance Leyden, who had by this time completed his medical 
studies, and taken his degree as a physician. In it Scott 
says, "At length I write to you per favor of John Ley- 
den. I presume Heber has made you sufficiently ac- 
quainted with this original (for he is a true one), and 
therefore I will trust to your own kindness, should an 
opportunity occur of doing him any service in furthering 
his Indian plans. You will readily judge, from convers- 
ing with him, that with a very uncommon stock of ac- 
quired knowledge, he wants a good deal of another sort 
of knowledge — which is only to be gleaned from an 
early intercourse with polished society. But he dances 
his bear with a good confidence, and the bear itself is a 
very good-natured and well-conditioned animal. All his 
friends are much interested about him, as the qualities 
both of his heart and head are very uncommon." He 
adds, "My third volume will appear as soon after the 

1 802 ELLIS — LEYDEN 339 

others as the despatch of the printers will admit. Some 
parts wUl, I think, interest you ; particularly the preser- 
vation of the entire Auld Maitland by oral tradition, 
probably from the reign of Edward II. or III. As I 
have never met with such an instance, I must request you 
to inquire all about it of Leyden, who was with me when 
I received my first copy. In the third volume I intend 
to publish Cadyow Castle, a historical sort of a ballad 
upon the death of the Begent Murray, and besides this, 
a long poem of my own. It will be a kind of romance 
of Border chivalry, in a light-horseman sort of stanza." 

He appears to have sent a copy of Cadyow Castle by 
Leyden, whose reception at Mr. Ellis's villa, near Wind- 
sor, is thus described in the next letter of the correspond- 
ence: "Let me thank you," says Ellis, "for your poem, 
which Mrs. E. has not received, and which, indeed, I 
could not help feeling glad, in the first instance (though 
we now begin to grow very impatient for it), that she 
did not receive. Leyden would not have been your 
Leyden if he had arrived like a careful citizen, with all 
his packages carefully docketed in his portmanteau. If 
on the point of leaving for many years, perhaps for- 
ever, his country and the friends of his youth, he had 
not deferred to the last, and till it was too late, all that 
could be easily done, and that stupid people find time to 
do — if he had not arrived with all his ideas perfectly 
bewildered — and tired to death, and sick — and without 
any settled plans for futurity, or any accurate recollec- 
tion of the past — we should have felt much more dis- 
appointed than we were by the non-arrival of your 
poem, which he assured us he remembered to have left 
somewhere or other, and therefore felt very confident of 
recovering. In short, his whole air and countenance 
told ns, ' I am come to be one of your friends, ' and we 
immediately took him at his word." 

By the "romance of Border chivalry," which was de- 
signed to form part of the third volume of the Minstrelsy, 

340 SIR WALTER SCOTT .et. 31 

the reader is to understand the first draft of The Lay 
of the Last Minstrel; and the author's description of it 
as being "in a light-horseman sort of stanza," was prob- 
ably suggested by the circumstances under which the 
greater part of that original draft was composed. He 
has told us, in his Introduction of 1830, that the poem 
originated in a request of the young and lovely Countess 
of Dalkeith, that he would write a ballad on the legend 
of Gilpin Horner: that he began it at Lasswade, and 
read the opening stanzas, as soon as they were written, 
to his friends, Erskine and Cranstoun: that their recep' 
tion of these was apparently so cold as to discourage him, 
and disgust him with what he had done ; but that finding, 
a few days afterwards, tjiat the stanzas had nevertheless 
excited their curiosity, and haunted their memory, he 
was encouraged to resume the undertaking. The scene 
and date of this resumption I owe to the recollection of 
the then Cornet of the Edinburgh Light Horse. While 
the troop were on permanent duty at Musselburgh, in 
the autumnal recess of 1802, the Quartermaster, during 
a charge on Portobello sands, received a kick of a horse, 
which confined him for three days to his lodgings. Mr. 
Skene found him busy with his pen; and he produced 
before these three days expired the first canto of the Lay, 
very nearly, if his friend's memory may be trusted, in 
the state in which it was ultimately published. That the 
whole poem was sketched and filled in with extraordinary 
rapidity, there can be no difficulty in believing. He 
himself says (in the Litroduction of 1830), that after he 
had once got fairly into the vein, it proceeded at the rate 
of about a canto in a week. The Lay, however, like 
the Tristrem, soon outgrew the dimensions which he had 
originally contemplated; the design of including it in the 
third volume of the Minstrelsy was of course abandoned; 
and it did not appear until nearly three years after that 
fortunate mishap on the beach of Portobello. 

To return to Scott's correspondence: it shows that 


Ellis had, although involved at the time in serious family 
afflictions, exerted himself strenuously and effectively in 
behalf of Leyden; a service which Scott acknowledges 
most warmly. His friend writes, too, at great length, 
about the completion of the Minstrelsy, urging, in par- 
ticular, the propriety of prefixing to it a good map of the 
Scottish Border — "for, in truth," he says, "I have 
never been able to find even Ercildoune on any map in 
my possession." The poet answers (January 30, 1803), 
"The idea of a map me much, but there are two 
strong objections to its being prefixed to this edition. 
First, we shall be out in a month, within which time it 
would be difficult, I apprehend, for Mr. Arrowsmith, 
laboring under the disadvantages which I am about to 
mention, to complete the map. Secondly, you are to 
know that I am an utter stranger to geometry, surveying, 
and all such inflammatory branches of study, as Mrs. 
Malaprop calls them. My education was unfortunately 
interrupted by a long indisposition, which occasioned my 
residing for about two years in the country with a good 
maiden aunt, who permitted and eacouraged me to run 
about the fields, as wild as any buck that ever fled from 
the face of man. Hence my geographical knowledge is 
merely practical, and though I think that in the South 
country, ' I could be a guide worth ony twa that may in 
Liddesdale be found,' yet I believe Hobby Noble, or 
Kinmont Willie, would beat me at laying down a map. 
I have, however, sense enough to see that our mode of 
executing maps in general is anything but perfect. The 
country is most inaccurately defined, and had your Gen- 
eral (Wade) marched through Scotland by the assistance 
of Ainslie's map, his flying artillery would soon have 
stuck fast among our morasses, and his horse broke their 
knees among our cairns. Your system of a bird's-eye view 
is certainly the true principle." He goes on to mention 
some better maps than ElKs seemed to have consulted, 
and to inform him where he may discover Ercildoune, 


under its modem form of Earlston, upon the river 
Leader; and concludes, "the map then must be deferred 
until the third edition, about which, I suppose, Long- 
man thinks courageously." He then adds, "I am almost 
glad Cadyow Castle is miscarried, as I have rather lost 
conceit of it at present, being engaged on what I think 
will be a more generally interesting legend. I have 
called it The Lay of the Last Minstrel, and put it in 
the mouth of an old bard, who is supposed to have sur- 
vived all his brethren, and to have lived down to 1690. 
The thing itself will be very long, but I would willingly 
have sent you the Introduction, had you been stiU in 
possession of your senatorial privilege; — but double 
postage would be a strange innovation on the established 
price of ballads, which have always sold at the easy rate 
of one haK-penny." 

I must now give part of a letter in which Leyden re- 
curs to the kindness, and sketches the person and man- 
ners of George Ellis, in a highly characteristic fashion. 
He says to Scott (January 25, 1803), "You were, no 
doubt, surprised, my- dear sir, that I gave you so little 
information about my movements; but it is only this day 
I have been able to speak of them with any precision. 
Such is the tardiness in everything connected with the 
India House, that a person who is present in the charac- 
ter of spectator is quite amazed; but if we consider it as 
the centre of a vast commercial concern, in comparison 
of which Tyre and Sidon, and the Great Carthage itself, 
must inevitably dwindle into huckster shops, we are in- 
duced to think of them with more patience. Even yet 
I cannot answer you exactly — being very uncertain 
whether I am to sail on the 18th of next month, or the 

" Now shal i telen to ye, i wis, 
Of that kind Sqneyere Ellis, 
That wonnen ia this cit^ ; 


Conrtess he is, hy Qoi ahnizt I 
Tliat he nis nought ymaked knizt 
It is the more pitie. 

" He konnen better eohe glewe 
Than I konnen to ^e shewe, 

Baith maist and least. 
So wel he wirketh in eche thewe 
That where he commen, I tell ye trewe, 
He is ane welcome guest. 

" His eyen graye as glas ben, 
And his looks ben alto kene, 

LoTeliche to paramour. 
Brown as acorn ben his faxe, 
His face is thin as bettel axe 
That dealeth dintis doore. 


" His wit ben both keene and sharpe. 
To knizt or dame that carll can carpe 

Either in hall or bower ; 
And had I not this sqneyere yfonde, 
I had been at the se-gronde, 

Which had been great dolonie. 

" In him Ich finden non other enil, 
Save that his nostril so doth snivel, 

It is not myche my choice. 
Bnt than his wit ben so perqnire, 
That thai who can his carpyuge here 
Thai thynke not of his voice. 

" To speake not of his gentel dame 
Ich wis it war boihe sin and shame, 

Lede is not to layne : 
She is a ladye of sich pryce, 
To leven in that dame's service 
Meni wer f nl fain. 

" Hir wit is fnl kene and qneynt. 
And hir statnre smale and gent, 
Semeleche to be seene ; 

344 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^et. 31 

Armes, hondes, and fingres amale, 
Of pearl beth eohe fingre nale ; 
She mizt be ferys Qnene. 


" That lady she iril giT a scaif 
To him that wold ykiUen a dwarf 

Churle of Paynim kinde ; 
That dwarf he is so fell of mode 
Tho ye shold drynk his hert blode, 

Gode wold ze never finde. 

" That dwarf he ben beardless and bare- 
And weaselblowen ben al his hair, 

Like an ympe or elf e ; 
And in this world beth al and hale 
Ben nothynge that he loveth an dele 

Safe his owen selfe." . . ■ 

The fourth of these verses refers to the loss of the 
Hindostan, in which ship Leyden, but for Mr. Ellis's 
interference, must have sailed, and which foundered in 
the Channel. The dwarf is, of course, Eitson. 

After various letters of the same kind, I find one, 
dated Isle of Wight, April the 1st (1803), the morning 
before Leyden finally sailed. "I have been two days on 
board," he writes, "and you may conceive what an excel- 
lent change I made from the politest society of London 
to the brutish skippers of Portsmouth. Our crew con- 
sists of a very motley party ; but there are some of them 
very ingenious, and Robert Smith, Sydney's brother, is 
himself a host. He is almost the most powerful man I 
have met with. My money concerns I shall consider 
you as trustee of; and all remittances, as well as divi- 
dends from Longman, will bes-to your direction. These, 
I hope, we shall soon be able to adjust very accurately. 
Money may be paid, but kindness never. Assure your 
excellent Charlotte, whom I shall ever recollect with 
affection and esteem, how much I regret that I did not 
see her before my departure, and say a thousand pretty 
things, for which my mind is too much agitated, being 


in tie situation of Coleridge's devil and Ms grannam, 
' expecting and hoping the trumpet to blow. ' ^ And now, 
my dear Scott, adieu. Think of me with indulgence, 
and be certain, that wherever, and in whatever situation, 
John Leyden is, his heart is unchanged by place, and 
his soul by time." 

This letter was received by Scott, not in Edinburgh, 
but in London. He had hurried up to town as soon as 
the Court of Session rose for the spring vacation, in 
hopes of seeing his friend once more before he left Eng- 
land ; but he came too late. He had, however, done his 
part : he had sent Leyden ^650, through Messrs. Longman, 
a week before ; and on the back of that bill there is the 
following memorandum: "Dr. Leyden's total debt to me 
£150; he also owes £50 to my uncle." 

He thus writes to Ballantyne, on the 21st April, 1803 : 
"I have to thank you for the accuracy with which the 
Minstrelsy is thrown off. Longman and Kees are de- 
lighted with the printing. Be so good as to disperse the 
following presentation copies, with ' From the Editor ' 
on each: — 

James Hogg, Ettrick House, care of Mr. Oliver, 
Hawick — by the carrier — a complete set. 

Thomas Scott (my brother), ditto. 

Colin Mackenzie, Esq., Prince's Street, third volume 

Mrs. Scott, George Street, ditto. 

Dr. Eutherford, York Place, ditto. 

Captain Scott, Eosebank, ditto. 

I mean all these to be ordinary paper. Send one set 
fine paper to Dalkeith House, addressed to the Duchess; 
another, by the Inverary carrier, to Lady Charlotte 
Campbell; the remaining ten, fine paper, with any of 
Vol. III. which may be on fine paper, to be sent to me 
1 This is a line of Coleridge's yeu d' esprit on Mackintosh. 

346 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 31 

by sea. I think they will give you some eclat here, where 
printing is so much valued. I have settled about print- 
ing an edition of the Lay, 8vo, with vignettes, provided 
I can get a draughtsman whom I think well of. We 
may throw off a few superb in quarto. To the Minstrelsy 
I mean this note to be added, by way of advertisement : 
' In the press, and will speedily be published. The Lay 
of the Last Minstrel, by Walter Scott, Esq., Editor of 
the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. Also, Sir Tris- 
trem, a Metrical Romance, by Thomas of Ercildonne, 
called the Rhymer, edited from an ancient MS., with an 
Introduction and Notes, by Walter Scott, Esq.' Will 
you cause such a thing, to be appended in your own way 
and fashion ? " 

This letter is dated "No. 15, Piccadilly West," — he 
and Mrs. Scott being there domesticated under the roof 
of the late M. Charles Dumergue, a man of very supe- 
rior abilities and of excellent education, well known as 
surgeon -dentist to the royal family — who had been inti- 
mately acquainted with the Charpentiers in his own early 
life in France, and had warmly befriended Mrs. Scott's 
mother on her first arrival in England. M. Dumergue's 
house was, throughout the whole period of the emigra- 
tion, liberally opened to the exiles of his native country; 
nor did some of the noblest of those unfortunate refugees 
scruple to make a free use of his purse, as well as of 
his hospitality. Here Scott met much highly interesting 
French society, and until a child of his own was estab- 
lished in London, he never thought of taking up his 
abode anywhere else, as often as he had occasion to be in 

The letter is addressed to "Mr. James Ballantyne, 
printer, Abbey-hill, Edinburgh;" which shows, that 
before the third volume of the Minstrelsy passed through 
the press, the migration recommended two years earlier 
had at length taken place. "It was about the end of 
1802," says Ballantyne in his Memorandum, "that I 

i803 LONDON 347 

closed with a plan so congenial to my wishes. I re- 
moved, bag and baggage, to Edinburgh, finding accom- 
modation for two presses, and a proof one, in the precincts 
of Holyrood-house, then deriving new lustre and interest 
from the recent arrival of the royal exiles of France. In 
these obscure premises some of the most beautiful pro- 
ductions of what we called The Border Press were 
printed." The Memorandum states that Scott having 
renewed his hint as to pecuniary assistance, so soon as 
the printer found his finances straitened, "a liberal loan 
was advanced accordingly." Of course Scott's interest 
was constantly exerted in procuring employment, both 
legal and literary, for his friend's types. 

Heber, and Mackintosh, then at the height of his 
reputation as a conversationist, and daily advancing also 
at the Bar, had been ready to welcome Scott in town as 
old friends; and Rogers, WiUiam Stewart Kose, and 
several other men of literary eminence, were at the same 
time added to the list of his acquaintance. His principal 
object, however, — having missed Leyden, — was to pe- 
ruse and make extracts from some MSS. in the library of 
John, Duke of Eoxburghe, for the illustration of the 
Tristrem; and he derived no small assistance in other 
researches of the like kind from the collections which the 
indefatigable and obliging Douce placed at his disposal. 
Having completed these labors, he and Mrs. Scott went, 
with Heber and Douce, to Sunning Hill, where they spent 
a happy week, and Mr. and Mrs. Ellis heard the first 
two or three cantos of The Lay of the Last Minstrel read 
under an old oak in Windsor Forest. 

I should not omit to say that Scott was attended on 
this trip by a very large and fine bull-terrier, by name 
Camp, and that Camp's master and mistress too were de- 
lighted by finding that the Ellises cordially sympathized 
in their fondness for this animal, and indeed for all his 
race. At parting, Scott promised to send one of Camp's 
progeny, in the course of the season, to Sunning Hill. 

348 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 31 

From thence they proceeded to Oxford, accompanied 
by Heber; and it was on this occasion, as I believe, that 
Scott first saw his friend's brother, Keginald, in after-days 
the apostolic Bishop of Calcutta. He had just been de- 
clared the successful competitor for that year's poetical 
prize, and read to Scott at breakfast, in Brasenose 
College, the MS. of his Palestine. Scott observed that, 
in the verses on Solomon's Temple, one striking cir- 
cumstance had escaped him, namely, that no tools were 
used in its erection. Beginald retired for a few minutes 
to the corner of the room, and returned with the beauti- 
ful lines, — 

" No hammer fell, no ponderous axes mng, 
Like some tall palm the mystic f ahric sprung. 
Majestic silence," etc. ^ 

After inspecting the University and Blenheim, under 
the guidance of the Hebers, Scott returned to London, 
as appears from the following letter to Miss Seward, who 
had been writing to him on the subject of her projected 
biography of Dr. Darwin. The conclusion and date are 
lost : — 

"I have been for about a fortnight in this huge and 
bustling metropolis, when I am agreeably surprised by 
a packet from Edinburgh, containing Miss Seward's let- 
ter. I am truly happy at the information it communi- 
cates respecting the life of Dr. Darwin, who could not 
have wished his fame and character entrusted to a pen 
more capable of doing them ample, and, above all, dis- 
criminating justice. Biography, the most interesting 
perhaps of every species of composition, loses all its in- 
terest with me, when the shades and lights of the princi- 
pal character are not accurately and faithfully detailed ; 
nor have I much patience with such exaggerated daubing 
as Mr. Hayley has bestowed upon poor Cowper. I can 
no more sympathize with a mere eulogist, than I can with 
a ranting hero upon the stage; and it unfortunately hap- 

^ See Life of Bishop Eeber, by his -widow, edition 1830, voL i. p. 30. 


pens that some of our disrespect is apt, rather unjustly, 
to be transferred to the subject of the panegyric in the 
one case, and to poor Cato in the other. Unapprehen- 
sive that even friendship can bias Miss Seward's duty 
to the public, I shall wait most anxiously for the volume 
her kindness has promised me. 

"As for my third volume, it was very nearly printed 
when I left Edinburgh, and must, I think, be ready for 
publication in about a fortnight, when it will have the 
honor of tra,velling to Lichfield. I doubt you will find 
but little amusement in it, as there are a good many old 
ballads, particularly those of 'the Covenanters,' which, 
in point of composition, are mere drivelling trash. They 
are, however, curious in an historical point of view, and 
have enabled me to slide in a number of notes about that 
dark and bloody period of Scottish history. There is a 
vast convenience to an editor in a tale upon which, with- 
out the formality of adapting the notes very precisely to 
the shape and form of the ballad, he may hang on a set 
like a herald's coat without sleeves, saving himself the 
trouble of taking measure, and sending forth the tale of 
ancient time, ready equipped from the Monmouth Street 
warehouse of a commonplace book. Cadyow Castle is to 
appear in volume third. 

" 1 proceeded thus far about three weeks ago, and, 

shame to tell, have left my epistle unfinished ever since; 
yet I have not been wholly idle, about a fortnight of that 
period having been employed as much to my satisfaction 
as any similar space of time during my life. I was, the 
first week of that fortnight, with my invaluable friend 
George EUis, and spent the second week at Oxford, 
which I visited for the first time. I was peculiarly for- 
tunate in having for my patron at Oxford, Mr. Heber, 
a particular friend of mine, who is intimately acquainted 
with all, both animate and inanimate, that is worth know- 
ing at Oxford. The time, though as much as I could 
possibly spare, has, I find, been too short to convey to 

3 so SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 31 

me separate and distinct ideas of all the variety of won- 
ders which I saw. My memory only at present furnishes 
a grand but indistinct picture of towers, and chapels, and 
oriels, and vaulted halls, and libraries, and paintings. I 
hope, in a little time, my ideas wiU develop themselves 
a little more distinctly, otherwise I shall have profited 
little by my tour. I was much flattered by the kind 
reception and notice I met with from some of the most 
distinguished inhabitants of the halls of Isis, which was 
more than such a truant to the classic page as myself was 
entitled to expect at the source of classic learning. 

"On my return, I find an apologetic letter from my 
printer, saying the third volume will be despatched in a 
day or two. There has been, it seems, a meeting among 
the printers' devils; also among the paper-makers. I 
never heard of authors striking work, as the mechanics 
call it, until their masters the booksellers should increase 
their pay; but if such a combination could take place, 
the revolt would now be general in all branches of liter- 
ary labor. How much sincere satisfaction would it give 
me could I conclude this letter (as I once hoped), by say- 
ing I should visit Lichfield, and pay my personal respects 
to my invaluable correspondent in my "way northwards; 
but as circumstances render this impossible, I shall de- 
pute the poetry of the olden time in the editor's stead. 
My ' Romance ' is not yet finished. I prefer it much to 
anything I have done of the kind." . . . 

He was in Edinburgh by the middle of May ; and thus 
returns to his view of Oxford in a letter to his friend at 
Sunning Hill : — 


Eddibubgh, 25th May, 1803. 

Mt deak Ellis, — ... I was equally delighted with 
that venerable seat of learning, and flattered by the po- 
lite attention of Heber's friends. I should have been 
enchanted to have spent a couple of months among the 


curious libraries. What stores must be reserved for 
some painful student to bring forward to the public! 
Under the guidance and patronage of our good Heber, 
I saw many of the literary men of his Ahna Mater, and 
found matters infinitely more active in every department 
than I had the least previous idea of. Since I returned 
home, my time has been chiefly occupied in professional 
labors ; my truant days spent in London having thrown 
me a little behind; but now, I hope, I shall find spare 
moments to resume Sir Tristrem — and the Lay, which 
has acquired additional value in my estimation from its 
pleasing you. How often do Charlotte and I think of 
the little paradise at Sunning Hill and its kind inhab- 
itants ; and how do we regret, like Dives, the guK which 
is placed betwixt us and friends, with whom it would 
give us such pleasure to spend much of our time. It is 
one of the vilest attributes of the best of all possible 
worlds, that it contrives to split and separate and sub- 
divide everything like congenial pursuits and habits, for 
the paltry purpose, one would think, of diversifying every 
little spot with a share of its various productions. I 
don't know why the human and vegetable departments 
should differ so excessively. Oaks and beeches, and 
ashes and elms, not to mention cabbages and turnips, are 
usually arrayed en masse ; but where do we meet a town 
of antiquaries, a village of poets, or a hamlet of philoso- 
phers? But, instead of fruitless lamentations, we sin- 
cerely hope Mrs. Ellis and you will unrivet yourselves 
from your forest, and see how the hardy blasts of our 
mountains wiU suit you for a change of climate. . . . 
The new edition of Minstrelsy is published here, but not 
in London as yet, owing to the embargo on our shipping. 
An invasion is expected from Flushing, and no measures 
of any kind taken to prevent or repel it. Yours ever 
faithfully W. Scott. 

This letter enclosed a sheet of extracts from Fordun, 


in Scott's handwriting; the subject being the traditional 
marriage of one of the old Counts of Anjou with a female 
demon, by which the Scotch chronicler accounts for all 
the crimes and misfortunes of the English Plantagenets. 

Messrs. Longman's new edition of the first two vol- 
umes of the Minstrelsy consisted of 1000 copies — of 
volume third there were 1500. A complete edition of 
1250 copies followed in 1806 ; a fourth, also of 1250, in 
1810; a fifth, of 1500, in 1812; a sixth, of 500, in 1820; 
and since then it has been incorporated in various succes- 
sive editions of Scott's Collected Poetry — to the extent 
of at least 15,000 copies more. Of the Continental and 
American editions I can say nothing, except that they 
have been very numerous. The book was soon translated 
into German, Danish, and Swedish; and, the structure 
of those languages being very favorable to the undertak- 
ing, the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border has thus be- 
come widely naturalized among nations themselves rich 
in similar treasures of legendary lore. Of the extraor- 
dinary accuracy and felicity of the German version of 
Schubart, Scott has given some specimens in the last 
edition which he himself superintended — that of 1830. 

He speaks, in the Essay to which I have referred, as 
if the first reception of the Minstrelsy on the south of 
the Tweed had been cold. "The curiosity of the Eng- 
lish," he says, "was not much awakened by poems in 
the rude garb of antiquity, accompanied with notes refer- 
ring to the obscure feuds of barbarous clans, of whose 
very names civilized history was ignorant." In writing 
those beautiful Introductions of 1830, however, Scott, as 
I have already had occasion to hint, trusted entirely to 
his recollection of days long since gone by, and he has 
accordingly le^ fall many statements, which we must take 
with some allowance. His impressions as to the recep- 
tion of the Minstrelsy were different, when, writing to 
his brother-in-law, Charles Carpenter, on the 3d March, 
1803, for the purpose of introducing Leyden, he said: 


"I have contrived to turn a very slender portion of liter- 
ary talents to some account, by a publication of the poeti- 
cal antiquities of the Border, where the old people had 
preserved many ballads descriptive of the manners of the 
country during the wars with England. This trifling 
collection was so well received by a discerning public, 
that, after receiving about aElOO profit for the first edi- 
tion, which my vanity cannot omit informing you went 
off in six months, I have sold the copyright for £500 
more." This is not the language of disappointment; and 
though the edition of 1803 did not move off quite so rap- 
idly as the first, and the work did not perhaps attract 
much notice beyond the more cultivated students of liter- 
ature, until the Editor's own genius blazed out in full 
splendor in the Lay, and thus lent general interest to 
whatever was connected with his name, I suspect there 
never was much ground for accusing the English public 
of regarding the Minstrelsy with more coldness than the 
Scotch — the population of the Border districts themselves 
being, of course, excepted. Had the sale of the original 
edition been chiefly Scotch, I doubt whether Messrs. 
Longman would have so readily offered £500, in those 
days of the trade a large sum, for the second. Scott had 
become habituated, long before 1830, to a scale of book- 
selling transactions, measured by which the largest edi- 
tions and copy-monies of his own early days appeared 
insignificant; but the evidence seems complete that he 
was well contented at the time. 

He certainly had every reason to be so as to the im- 
pression which the Minstrelsy made on the minds of 
those entitled to think for themselves upon such a sub- 
ject. The ancient ballads in his collection, which had 
never been printed at all before, were in number forty- 
three; and of the others — most of which were in fact all 
but new to the modern reader — it is little to say that his 
editions were superior in all respects to those that had 
preceded them. He had, I firmly believe, interpolated 

354 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 31 

hardly a line or even an epithet of his own ; but his dili- 
gent zeal had put him in possession of a variety of copies 
in different stages of preservation; and to tiie task of 
selecting a standard text among such a diversity of mate- 
rials, he brought a knowledge of old manners and phrase- 
ology, and a manly simplicity of taste, such as had never 
before been united in the person of a poetical antiquary. 
From among a hundred corruptions he seized, with in- 
stinctive tact, the primitive diction and imagery; and 
produced strains in which the unbroken energy of half- 
civilized ages, their stern and deep passions, their daring 
adventures and cruel tragedies, and even their rude wild 
humor, are reflected with almost the brightness of a 
Homeric mirror, interrupted by hardly a blot of what 
deserves to be called vulgarity, and totally free from any 
admixture of artificial sentimentalism. As a picture of 
manners, the Scottish Minstrelsy is not surpassed, if 
equalled, by any similar body of poetry preserved in any 
other country; and it unquestionably owes its superiority 
in this respect over Percy's Eeliques, to the Editor's 
conscientious fidelity, on the one hand, which prevented 
the introduction of anything new — to his pure taste, on 
the other, in the balancing of discordant recitations. 
His introductory essays and notes teemed with curious 
knowledge, not hastily grasped for the occasion, but 
gradually gleaned and sifted by the patient labor of 
years, and presented with an easy, unaffected propriety 
and elegance of arrangement and expression, which it 
may be doubted if he ever materially surpassed in the 
happiest of his imaginative narrations. I well remem- 
ber, when Waverley was a new book, and all the world 
were puzzling themselves about its authorship, to have 
heard the Poet of the Isle of Palms exclaim impa- 
tiently, "I wonder what all these people are perplexing 
themselves with: have they forgotten the prose of the 
Minstrelsy?" Even had the Editor inserted none of his 
own verse, the work would have contained enough, and 


more than enough, to found a lasting and graceful repu- 

It is not to be denied, however, that the Minstrelsy of 
the Scottish Border has derived a very large accession of 
interest from the subsequent career of its Editor. One 
of the critics of that day said that the book contained 
"the elements of a hundred historical romances; " — and 
this critic was a prophetic one. No person who has not 
gone through its volumes for the express purpose of com- 
paring their contents with his great original works, can 
have formed a conception of the endless variety of inci- 
dents and images now expanded and emblazoned by his 
mature art, of which the first hints may be found either 
in the text of those primitive ballads, or in the notes, 
which the happy rambles of his youth had gathered to- 
gether for their illustration. In the edition of the Min- 
strelsy published since his death, not a few such instances 
are pointed out; but the list might have been extended 
far beyond the limits which such an addition allowed. 
The taste and fancy of Scott appear to have been formed 
as early as his moral character ; and he had, before he 
passed the threshold of authorship, assembled about him, 
in the uncalculating delight of native enthusiasm, almost 
all the materials on which his genius was destined to be 
employed for the gratification and instruction of the 




Shobtly after the complete Minstrelsy issued from 
the press, Scott made his first appearance as a reviewer. 
The Edinburgh Review had been commenced in October, 
1802, under the superintendence of the Rev. Sydney 
Smith, with whom, during his short residence in Scot- 
land, he had lived on terms of great kindness and famil- 
iarity. Mr. Smith soon resigned the editorship to Mr. 
Jeffrey, who had by this time been for several years 
among the most valued of Scott's friends and companions 
at the Bar; and, the new journal being far from commit- 
ting itself to violent politics at the outset, he appreciated 
the brilliant talents regularly engaged in it far too highly, 
not to be well pleased with the opportunity of occasion- 
ally exercising his pen in its service. His first contribu- 
tion was an article on Southey's Amadis of Gaul, in- 
cluded in the number for October, 1803. Another, on 
Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, appeared in the 
same number; — a third, on Godwin's Life of Chaucer; 
a fourth, on EUis's Specimens of Ancient English Poetry; 
and a fifth, on the Life and Works of Chatterton, fol- 
lowed in the course of 1804.^ 

' Scott's contribntions to our periodical literature have been, with some 
trivial exceptions, included in the recent collection of his Miscellaneous 
Prose Writings. 


During the summer of 1803, however, his chief literary 
labor was still on the Tristrem; and I shall presently 
give some further extracts from his letters to Ellis, which 
will amply illustrate the spirit in which he continued his 
researches about the Seer of Ercildoune, and the inter- 
ruptions which these owed to the prevalent alarm of 
French invasion. Both as Quartermaster of the Edin- 
burgh Light Horse, and as Sheriff of The Forest, he had 
a full share of responsibility in the warlike arrangements 
to which the authorities of Scotland had at length been 
roused; nor were the duties of his two offices considered 
as strictly compatible by Francis, Lord Napier, then Lord- 
Lieutenant of Selkirkshire; for I find several letters in 
which his Lordship complains that the incessant drills 
and musters of Musselburgh and Portobello prevented 
the Sheriff from attending county meetings held at Sel- 
kirk in the course of this summer and autumn, for the 
purpose of organizing the trained bands of -the Forest, 
on a scale hitherto unattempted. Lord Napier strongly 
urges the propriety of his resigning his connection with 
the Edinburgh troop, and fixing his summer residence 
somewhere within the limits of his proper jurisdiction; 
nay, he goes so far as to hint, that if these suggestions 
should be neglected, it must be his duty to state the case 
to the Government. Scott could not be induced (least of 
all by a threat), while the fears of invasion still prevailed, 
to resign his place among his old companions of "the 
voluntary band; " but he seems to have presently acqui- 
esced in the propriety of the Lord-Lieutenant's advice 
respecting a removal from Lasswade to Ettrick Forest. 

The following extract is from a letter written at Mus- 
selburgh during this summer or autumn : — 

"Miss Seward's acceptable favor reaches me in a place, 
and at a time, of great bustle, as the corps of voluntary 
cavalry to which I belong is quartered for a short time in 
this village, for the sake of drilling and discipline. Nev- 
ertheless, had your letter announced the name of the 

358 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 31 

gentleman who took the trouble of forwarding it, I would 
have made it my business to find him out, and to prevail 
on him, if possible, to spend a day or two with us in 
quarters. We are here assuming a very military appear- 
ance. Three regiments of militia, with a formidable 
park of artillery, are encamped just by us. The Edin- 
burgh troop, to which I have the honor to be quarter- 
master, consists entirely of young gentlemen of family, 
and is, of course, admirably well mounted and armed. 
There are other four troops in the regiment, consisting 
of yeomanry, whose iron faces and muscular forms an- 
nounce the hardness of the climate against which they 
wrestle, and the powers which nature has given them to 
contend with and subdue it. These dcorps have been 
easily raised in Scotland, the farmers being in general a 
high-spirited race of men, fond of active exercises, and 
patient of hardship and fatigue. For myself, I must 
own that to one who has, like myself, Id tete un peu 
exaltee, the ' pomp and circumstance of war ' gives, for a 
time, a very poignant and pleasing sensation. The im- 
posing appearance of cavalry, in particular, and the rush 
which marks their onset, appear to me to partake highly 
of the sublime. Perhaps I am the more attached to this 
sort of sport of swords, because my health requires much 
active exercise, and a lameness contracted in childhood 
renders it inconvenient for me to take it otherwise than 
on horseback. I have, too, a hereditary attachment to 
the animal — not, I flatter myself, of the common jockey 
cast, but because I regard him as the kindest and most 
generous of the subordinate tribes. I hardly even except 
the dogs; at least they are usually so much "better treated, 
that compassion for the steed should be thrown into the 
scale when we weigh their comparative merits. My wife 
(a foreigner) never sees a horse ill-used without asking 
what that poor horse has done in his state of preexist- 
ence? I would fain hope they have been carters or 
hackney-coachmen, and are only experiencing a retort of 


the ill-usage they have formerly inflicted. What think 

It appears that Miss Seward had sent Scott some 
obscure magazine criticism on his Minstrelsy, in which 
the censor had condemned some phrase as naturally sug- 
gesting a low idea. The lady's letter not having been 
preserved, I cannot explain iEarther the sequel of that 
from which I have been quoting. Scott says, however : — 

"I am infinitely amused with your sagacious critic. 
God wot, I have often admired the vulgar subtlety of 
such minds as can with a depraved ingenuity attach a 
mean or disgusting sense to an epithet capable of being 
otherwise understood, and more frequently, perhaps, 
used to express an elevated idea. In many parts of Scot- 
land the word virtue is limited entirely to industry ; and 
a young divine who preached upon the moral beauties of 
virtue was considerably surprised at learning that the 
whole discourse was supposed to be a panegyric upon a 
particular damsel who could spin fourteen spindles of 
yarn in the course of a week. This was natural; but 
your literary critic has the merit of going very far a-field 
to fetch home his degrading association." 

To return to the correspondence with Ellis — Scott 
writes thus to him in July: "I cannot pretend imme- 
diately to enter upon the serious discussion which you 
propose respecting the age of ' Sir Tristrem ; ' but yet, 
as it seems likely to strip Thomas the Prophet of the 
honors due to the author of the English Tristrem, I can- 
not help hesitating before I can agree to your theory ; — 
and here my do\ibt lies. Thomas of Ercildoune, called 
the Ehymer, is a character mentioned by almost every 
Scottish historian, and the date of whose existence is 
almost as weU known as if we had the parish register. 
Now, his great reputation, and his designation of Hymour, 
could only be derived from his poetical performances; 
and in what did these consist excepting in the Romance 
of ' Sir Tristrem,' mentioned by Eobert de Brunne? I 

36o SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 31 

hardly think, therefore, we shall be justified in assuming 
the existence of an earlier Thomas, who would be, in 
fact, merely the creature of our system. I own I am not 
prepared to take this step, if I can escape otherwise from 
you and M. de la Eavaillere — and thus I will try it. 
M. de la H. barely informs us that the history of Sir 
Tristrem was known to Chretien de Troyes in the end of 
the twelfth century, and to the King of Navarre in the 
beginning of the thirteenth. Thus far his evidence goes, 
and I think not one inch farther — for it does not estab- 
lish the existence either of the metrical romance, as you 
suppose, or of the prose romance, as M. de la E. much 
more erroneously supposes, at that very early period. If 
the stcyry of Sir Tristrem was founded in fact, and if, 
which I have all along thought, a person of this name 
really swallowed a dose of cautharides intended to stimu- 
late the exertions of his uncle, a petty monarch of Corn- 
wall, and involved himself of course in an intrigue with 
his aunt, these facts must have taken place during a very 
early period of English history, perhaps about the time 
of the Heptarchy. Now, if this be once admitted, it is 
clear that the raw material from which Thomas wove his 
web must have been current long before his day, and I 
am inclined to think that Chretien and the King of Na- 
varre refer, not to the special metrical romance contained 
in Mr. Donee's fragments, but to the general story of 
Sir Tristrem, whose love and misfortunes were handed 
down by tradition as a historical fact. There is no diffi- 
culty in supposing a tale of this kind to have passed from 
the Armoricans, or otherwise, into the mouths of the 
French; as, on the other hand, it seems to have been 
preserved among the Celtic tribes of the Border, from 
whom, in all probability, it was taken by their neighbor, 
Thomas of Ercildoune. If we suppose, therefore, that 
Chretien and the King allude only to the general and 
well-known story of Tristrem, and not to the particular 
edition of which Mr. Douce has some fragments — (and 


I see no evidence that any such special allusion to these 
fragments is made) — it will follow that they may be as 
late as the end of the thirteenth century, and that the 
Thomas mentioned in them may be the Thomas of whose, 
existence we have historical evidence. In short, the 
question is, shall Thomas be considered as a landmark 
by which to ascertain the antiquity of the fragments, or 
shall the supposed antiquity of the fragments be held a 
sufficient reason for supposing an earlier Thomas? For 
aught yet seen, I incline to my former opinion, that those 
fragments are coeval with the ipsissimus Thomas. I 
acknowledge the internal evidence, of which you are so 
accurate a judge, weighs more with me than the reference 
to the King of Navarre ; but, after all, the extreme diffi- 
culty of judging of style, so as to bring us within sixty or 
seventy years, must be fully considered. Take notice, I 
have never pleaded the matter so high as to say, that the 
Auchinleck MS. contains the very words devised by 
Thomas the Khymer. On the contrary, I have always 
thought it one of the spurious copies in queint Inglis, of 
which Eobert de Brunne so heavily complains. But this 
will take little from the curiosity, perhaps little from the 
antiquity, of the romance. Enough of Sir T. for the 
present. — How happy it will make us if you can fulfil 
the expectation you hold out of a northern expedition. 
Whether in the cottage or at Edinburgh, we will be 
equally happy to receive you, and show you all the lions 
of our vicinity. Charlotte is hunting out music for Mrs. 
E., but I intend to add Johnsori's collection, which, 
though the tunes are simple, and often bad sets, contains 
much more original Scotch music than any other." 

About this time, Mr. and Mrs. Ellis, and their friend 
Douce, were preparing for a tour into the North of Eng- 
land; and Scott was invited and strongly tempted to join 
them at various points of their progress, particularly at 
the Grange, near Eotherham, in Yorkshire, a seat of the 

362 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 32 

Earl of Effingham. But he found it impossible to escape 
again from Scotland, owing to the agitated state of the 
country. — On returning to the cottage from an excur- 
sion to his Sheriffship, he thus resumes : — 


Lasswaoe, AngoBt 27, 1803. 
Dear Ellis, — My conscience has been thumping me 
as hard as if it had studied under Mendoza, for letting 
your kind favor remain so long unanswered. Neverthe- 
less, in this it is, like Launcelot Gobbo's, but a hard 
kind of conscience, as it must know how much I have 
been occupied with Armies of Eeserve, and Militia, and 
Pikemen, and Sharpshooters, who are to descend from 
Ettrick Forest to the confusion of all invaders. The 
truth is, that this country has for once experienced that 
the pressure of external danger may possibly produce in- 
ternal unanimity; and so great is the present military 
zeal, that I reaUy wish our rulers would devise some way 
of calliag it into action, were it only on the economical 
principle of saving so much good courage from idle evap- 
oration. — I am interrupted by an extraordinary acci- 
dent, nothing less than a volley of small shot fired 
through the window, at which my wife was five minutes 
before arranging her flowers. By Camp's assistance, 
who run the culprit's foot like a LiddesdaJe bloodhound, 
we detected an unlucky sportsman, whose awkwardness 
and rashness might have occasioned very serious mischief 
— so much for interruption. — To return to Sir Tris- 
trem. As for Mr. Thomas's name, respecting which 
you state some doubts,^ I request you to attend to the 
following particulars : In the first place, surnames were 
of very late introduction into Scotland, and it would be 
difficult to show that they became in general a hereditary 

1 Mr, Ellis had hinted that " Bgmer might not more necessaril; indicate 
an actual poet, than the name of Taylor does in modem times an actual 
knight of the thimble." 

i8o3 LETTER TO ELLIS :i63 

distinction, until after the time of Thomas the Ehymer ; 
previously they were mere personal distinctions peculiar 
to the person by whom they were borne, and dying along 
with him. Thus the children of Alan Durward were 
not called Durward, because they were not Ostiarii, the 
circumstance from which he derived the name. When 
the surname was derived from property, it became natu- 
rally hereditary at a more early period, because the dis- 
tinction applied equally to the father and the son. The 
same happened with patronymics, both because the name 
of the father is usually given to the son ; so that Walter 
Fitz waiter would have been my son's name in those times 
as well as my own; and also because a clan often takes 
a sort of general patronymic from one common ancestor, 
as Macdonald, etc., etc. But though these classes of sur- 
names become hereditary at an early period, yet, in the 
natural course of things, epithets merely personal are 
much longer of becoming a family distinction.^ But I 
do not trust, by any means, to this general argument; 
because the charter quoted in the Minstrelsy contains 
written evidence, that the epithet of Rymour was pecu- 
liar to our Thomas, and was dropped by his son, who 

^ The whole of this subject has derived much illustration from the 
recent edition of the Hagman's Roll, a contribution to the Bannatyne Club 
of Edinburgh by two of Sir Walter Scott's most esteemed friends, the 
Lord Chief Commissioner Adam and Sir Samuel Shepherd. That record 
of the oaths of fealty tendered to Edward I., during his Scotch usurpa- 
tion, furnishes, indeed, very strong confirmation of the views which the 
editor of Sir Tristrim had thus early adopted concerning the origin of sur- 
names in Scotland. The landed gentry, over most of the country, seem to 
have been generally distinguished by the surnames still borne by their 
descendants — it is wonderful how little the land seems to have changed 
hands in the course of so many centuries. But the towns' people have, 
with few exceptions, designations apparently indicating the actual trade of 
the individual ; and in many instances, there is distinct evidence that the 
plan of transmitting snch names had not been adopted ; for example, 
Thomas the Tailor is described as son of Thomas the Smith, or vice verscl. 
The chief magistrates of the burghs appear, however, to have been, in 
most cases, younger sons of the neighboring gentry, and have of course 
their hereditary designations. This singular document, so often quoted 
and referred to, was never before printed in extenso. 

364 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 32 

designs himself simply, Thomas of Erceldoune, son of 
Thomas the Rymour of Ercddoune; which I think is 
conclusive upon the subject. In all this discussion, I 
have scorned to avail myself of the tradition of the coun-, 
try, as well as the suspicious testimony of Boece, Demp- 
ster, etc., grounded probably upon that tradition, which 
uniformly affirms the name of Thomas to have been Lear- 
mont or Leirmont, and that of the Bhymer a personal 
epithet. This circumstance may induce us, however, to 
conclude that some of his descendants had taken that 
name — certain it is that his castle is called Leirmont's 
Tower, and that he is as well known to the country peo- 
ple by that name, as by the appellation of the Rhymer. 

Having cleared up this matter, as I think, to every 
one's satisfaction, unless to those resembling not Thomas 
himself, but his namesake the Apostle, I have, secondly, 
to show that my Thomas is the Tomas of Donee's MS. 
Here I must again refer to the high and general rever- 
ence in which Thomas appears to have been held, as is 
proved by Robert de Brunne; but above all, as you ob- 
serve, to the extreme similarity betwixt the French and 
English poems, with this strong circumstance, that the 
mode of telling the story approved by the French min- 
strel, under the authority of his Tomas, is the very mode 
in which my Thomas has told it. Would you desire 
better sympathy? 

I lately met by accident a Cornish gentleman, who had 
taken up his abode in Selkirkshire for the sake of fishing 
— and what should his name be but Caerlion ? You will 
not doubt that this interested me very much. He tells 
me that there is but one family of the name in Cornwall, 
or as far as ever he heard, anywhere else, and that they 
are of great antiquity. Does not this circumstance seem 
to prove that there existed in Cornwall a place called 
Caerlion, giving name to that family? Caerlion would 
probably be Castrum Leonense, the chief town of Liones, 
which in every romance is stated to have been Tristrem's 


country, and from which he derived his surname of Tris- 
trem de Liones. This district, as you notice in the notes 
on the Fahliavx, was swallowed up by the sea. I need 
not remind you that all this tends to illustrate the Caer- 
lioun mentioned by Tomas, which I always suspected to 
be a very different place from Caerlion on Uske — which 
is no seaport. How I regret the number of leagues 
which prevented my joining you and the sapient Douce, 
and how much ancient lore I have lost. Where I have 
been, the people talked more of the praises of Ryno and 
FiUan (not Ossian's heroes, but two Forest greyhounds 
which I got in a present) than, I verily believe, they 
would have done of the prowesses of Sir Tristrem, or of 
Esplandian, had either of them appeared to lead on the 
levy en masse. Yours ever, W. Scott. 

Ellis says in reply — 

Mt deab Scott : I must begin by congratulating you on Mrs. 
Scott's escape ; Camp, if he had had no previous tide to immor- 
tality, would deserve it, for his zeal and address in detecting 
the stupid marksman, who, while he took aim at a bird on a 
tree, was so near shooting your fair " bird in bower." If there 
were many such shooters, it would become then a sufficient ex- 
cuse for the reluctance of Government to furnish arms indifEer- 
ently to all volunteers. In the next place, I am glad to hear 
that you are disposed to adopt my channel for transmitting the 
tale of Tristrem to Chretien de Troye. The more I have 
thought on the subject, the more I am convinced that the Nor- 
mans, long before the Conquest, had acquired from the Britons 
of Armorica a considerable knowledge of our old British fables, 
and that this led them, after the Conquest, to inquire after such 
accounts as were to be found in the country where the events 
are supposed to have taken place. I am satisfied, from the 
iuternal evidence of GeofErey of Monmouth's History, that it 
must have been fabricated in Bretagne, and that he did, as he 
asserts, only translate it. Now, as Marie, who lived about a 
century later, certainly translated also from the Breton a series 
of lays relating to Arthur and his knights, it will follow that 
the first poets who wrote in France, such as Chretien, etc., 

366 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 32 

must have acquired their knowledge of our traditions from 
Bretagne. Observe, that the pseudo-Turpin, who is supposed 
to have been anterior to Geoffrey, and who, on that supposition, 
cannot have borrowed from him, mentions, among Charle- 
magne's heroes, Hoel (the hero of Greoffrey also), " de quo canitur 
cantilena usque ad hodiernum diem." Now, if Thomas was 
able to establish his story as the most authentic, even by the 
avowal of the French themselves, and if the sketch of that story 
was previously known, it must have been because he wrote in 
the country which his hero was supposed to have inhabited ; 
and on the same grounds the Norman minstrels here, and even 
their English successors, were allowed to fill up, with as many 
circumstances as they thought proper, the tales of which the Ar- 
moricau Bretons probably furnished the first imperfect outline. 

What you teU me about your Cornish fisherman is very 
curious ; and I think with you that little reliance is to be placed 
on our "Welsh geography — and that Caerlion on Uske is by no 
means the Caerlion of Tristrem. Few writers or readers have 
hitherto considered sufficiently, that from the moment when 
Hengist first obtained a settlement in the Isle of Thanet, that 
settlement became England, and all the rest of the country 
became Wales; that these divisions continued to represent 
different proportions of the island at different periods ; but that 
Wales, during the whole Heptarchy, and for a long time after, 
comprehended the whole western coast very nearly from Corn- 
wall to Dunbretton ; and that this whole tract, of which the 
eastern frontier may be easily traced for each particular period, 
preserved most probably to the age of Thomas a community of 
language, of manners, and traditions. 

As your last volume announces your Lay, as well as Sir 
Tristrem, as in the press, I begin, in common with all your 
friends, to be uneasy about the future 'disposal of your time. 
Having nothing but a very active profession, and your military 
pursuits, and your domestic occupations, to think of, and Leyden 
having monopolized Asiatic lore, you will presently be quite an 
idle man ! You are, however, still in time to learn Erse, and 
it is, I am afraid, very necessary that you should do so, in order 
to stimulate my laziness, which has hitherto made no progress 
whatever in Welsh. Tour ever faithful, G. E. 

P. S. — Is Camp married yet ? 


Ellis had projected some time before this an edition of 
the Welsh Mabinogion,^ in which he was to be assisted 
by Mr. Owen, the author of the Welsh and English 
Dictionary, Cambrian Biography, etc. 

"I am very sorry," Scott says (September 14), "that 
you flag over those wild and interesting tales. I hope, if 
you will not work yourself (for which you have so little ex- 
cuse, having both the golden talents and the golden leisure 
necessary for study), you will at least keep Owen to some- 
thing that is rational — I mean to iron horses, and magic 
cauldrons, and JBran the Blessed, with the music of his 
whole army upon his shoulders, and, in short, to some- 
thing more pleasing and profitable than old apophthegms, 
triads, and ' blessed burdens of the womb of the isle of 
Britain.' Talking of such burdens, Camp has been regu- 
larly wedded to a fair dame in the neighborhood; but 
notwithstanding the Italian policy of locking the lady in 
a stable, she is suspected of some inaccuracy; but we 
suspend judgment, as Othello ought in all reason to have 
done, till w^ see the produce of the union. As for my 
own employment, I have yet much before me ; and as the 
beginning of letting out ink is like the letting out of 
water, I dare say I shall go on scribbling one nonsense or 
another to the end of the chapter. People may say this 
and that of the pleasure of fame or of profit as a motive 
of writing. I think the only pleasure is in the actual 
exertion and research, and I would no more write upon 
any other terms than I would hunt merely to dine upon 
hare-soup. At the same time, if credit and profit came 
unlooked for, I would no more quarrel with them than 
with the soup. I hope this will find you and Mrs. Ellis 
safely and pleasantly settled. 

" — By the way, while you are in his neighborhood, I 
hope you will not fail to inquire into the history of the 

1 The Mahinogion have at last been translated, and are now in the 
course of publication, in a, very beautiful form, by the Lady Charlotte 
Guest. (1839.) 

368 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 32 

valiant Moor of Moorhall and the Dragon of Wantley. 
As a noted burlesque upon the popular romance, the 
ballad has some curiosity and merit. 

Ever yours, W. S." 

Mr. Ellis received this letter where Scott hoped it 
would reach him, at the seat of Lord EfBngham; and he 
answers, on the 3d of October: — 

The beauty of this part of the country is such as to indem- 
nify the traveller for a few miles of very indifferent road, and 
the tedious process of creeping up and almost sliding down a 
succession of high hUls ; — and in the number of picturesque 
landscapes by which we are encompassed, the den of the dragon 
which you recommended to our attention is the most superla- 
tively beautiful and romantic. You are, I suppose, aware that 
this same den is the very spot from whence Lady Mary Wort- 
ley Montagu wrote many of her early letters ; and it seems that 
an old housekeeper, who lived there till last year, remembered 
to have seen her, and dwelt with great pleasure on the various 
charms of her celebrated mistress ; so that its wild scenes have 
an equal claim to veneration from the admirers of wit and gal- 
lantry, and the far-famed investigators of remote antiquity. 
With regard to the original Dragon, I have met with two dif- 
ferent traditions. One of these (which I think is preserved by 
Percy) states him to have been a wicked attorney, a relentless 
persecutor of the poor, who was at length, fortunately for his 
neighbors, ruined by a lawsuit which he had undertaken against 
his worthy and powerful antagonist Moor of MoorhaU. The 
other legend, which is current in the Wortley family, states him 
to have been a most formidable drinker, whose powers of inglu- 
tition, strength of stomach, and stability of head, had procured 
him a long series of triumphs over common visitants, but who 
was at length fairly drunk dead by the chieftain of the opposite 
moors. It must be confessed that the form of the den, a cavern 
cut in the rock, and very nearly resembling a wine or ale cellar, 
tends to corroborate this tradition ; but I am rather tempted to 
beUeve that both the stories were invented aprhs coup, and that 
the supposed dragon was some wolf or other destructive animal, 
who was finally himted down by Moor of MoorhaU, after doing 


considerable mischief to the flocks and herds of his superstitious 

The present house appears to have grown to its even now 
moderate size by successive additions to a very small logge 
(lodge), built by " a gentle knight, Sir Thomas Wortley," in the 
time of Henry VIII., for the pleasure, as an old inscription in 
the present scullery testifies, of " listening to the Hartes bell." 
Its site is on the side of a very high rocky hill, covered with 
oaks (the weed of the country), and overhanging the river Don, 
which in this place is little more than a mountain torrent, 
though it becomes navigable a few miles lower at Sheffield. A 
great part of the road from hence (which is seven miles distant) 
runs through forest ground, and I have no doubt tihat the whole 
was at no distant period covered with wood, because the modern 
improvements of the country, the result of flourishing manu- 
factories, have been carried on almost within our own time in 
consequence of the abundance of coal which here breaks out in 
many places even on the surface. On the opposite side of the 
river begin almost immediately the extensive moors which 
strike along the highest land of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and 
following the chain of hills, probably communicated not many 
centuries ago with those of Northumberland, Cumberland, and 
Scotland. I therefore doubt whether the general fac'e of the 
country is not better evidence as to the nature of the monster 
than the particular appearance of the cavern ; and am inclined 
to believe that Moor of Moorhall was a hunter of wild beasts, 
rather than of attorneys or hard drinkers. 

You are unjust in saying that I flag over the Mabinogion ; I 
have been very constantly employed upon my preface, and was 
proceeding to the last section when I set off for this place — so 
you see I am perfectly exculpated, and all over as white as snow. 
Anne being a true aristocrat, and considering purity of blood 
as essential to lay the foundation of all the virtues she expects 
to call out by a laborious education of a true son of Camp — 
she highly approves the strict and even prudish severity with 
which you watch over the morals of his bride, and expects you, 
inasmuch as aU the good knights she has read of have been re- 
markable for their incomparable beauty, not to neglect that 
important requisite in selecting her future guardian. We pos- 
sess a vulgar dog (a pointer), to whom it is intended to commit 

370 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 32 

the charge of our house during our absence, and to whom I 
mean to give orders to repel by force any attempts of our neigh- 
bors during the times that I shall be occupied in preparing 
hare-soup ; but Fitz-Camp will be her companion, and she trusts 
that you will strictly examine him while yet a varlet, and only 
send him up when you think him likely to become a true knight. 
Adieu — mille clwses. Gr- E. 

Scott tells Ellis in reply (October 14), that he was 
"infinitely gratified with his account of Wortley Lodge 
and the Dragon," and refers him to the article "Kem- 
pion," in the Minstrelsy, for a similar tradition respect- 
ing an ancestor of the noble house of Somerville. The 
• reader can hardly need to be reminded that the gentle 
knight Sir Thomas "Wortley's love of hearing the deer 
hell was often alluded to in Scott's subsequent writings. 
He goes on to express his hope, that next summer will 
be "a more propitious season for a visit to Scotland. 
The necessity of the present occasion," he says, "has 
kept almost every individual, however insignificant, to 
his post. God has left us entirely to our own means of 
defence, for we have not above one regiment of the line 
in all our ancient kingdom. In the mean while, we are 
doing the best we can to prepare ourselves for a contest, 
which, perhaps, is not far distant. A beacon light, com- 
municating with that of Edinburgh Castle, is just erect- 
ing in front of our quiet cottage. My field equipage is 
ready, and I want nothing but a pipe and a schnurhart- 
chen to convert me into a complete hussar.^ Charlotte, 
with the infantry (of the household troops, I mean), is to 
beat her retreat into Ettrick Forest, where, if the Tweed 
is in his usual wintry state of flood, she may weather out 

^ Schnurbartchen is German for nmstaohio. It appears from a page of 
an early note-book preyionsly transcribed, that Scott had been sometimes 
a smoker of tobacco in the first days of his light-hoTsemanship. He had 
laid aside the habit at the time -when this letter was written; bnt he 
twice again resumed it, though he never carried the indulgence to any 


a descent from Ostend. Next year I hope all this will 
be over, and that not only I shall have the pleasure of 
receiving you in peace and quiet, but also of going with 
you through every part of Caledonia, in which you can 
possibly be interested. Friday se'ennight our corps takes 
the field for ten days — for the second time within three 
months — which may explain the military turn of my 

"Poor Kitson is no more. All his vegetable soups 
and puddings have not been able to avert the evil day, 
which, I understand, was preceded by madness. It must 
be worth while to inquire who has got his MSS., — I 
mean his own notes and writings. The Life of Arthur, 
for example, must contain many curious facts and quota- 
tions, which the poor defunct had the power of assem- 
bling to an astonishing degree, without being able to 
combine anything like a narrative, or even to deduce one 
useful inference — witness his Essay on Bomance and 
Minstrelsy, which reminds one of a heap of rubbish, 
which had either turned out unfit for the architect's pur- 
pose, or beyond his skill to make use of. The ballads he 
had collected in Cumberland and Northumberland, too, 
would greatly interest me. If they have fallen into the 
hands of any liberal collector, I dare say I might be in- 
dulged with a sight of them. Pray inquire about this 

"Yesterday Charlotte and I had a visit which we owe 
to Mrs. E. A rosy lass, the sister of a bold yeoman in 
our neighborhood, entered our cottage, towing in a mon- 
strous sort of bull-dog, called emphatically Cerberus, 
whom she came on the part of her brother to beg our 
acceptance of, understanding we were anxious to have a 
son of Camp. Cerberus was no sooner loose (a pleasure 
which, I suspect, he had rarely enjoyed) than his father 
(supposS) and he engaged in a battle which might have 
been celebrated by the author of the Unnatural Com- 
bat, and which, for aught I know, might have turned 

372 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 32 

out a combat a Voutrance, if I had not interfered with 
a horse- whip, instead of a baton, as juge de Camp. The 
odds were indeed greatly against the stranger knight — 
two fierce Forest greyhounds having arrived, and, con- 
trary to the law of arms, stoutly assailed him. I hope to 
send you a puppy instead of Ais redoubtable Cerberus. 
Love to Mrs. E. W. S." 

After giving Scott some information about Bitson's 
literary treasures, most of which, as it turned out, had 
been disposed of by auction shortly before his death, Mr. 
Ellis (10th November) returns to the charge about Tris- 
trem and True Thomas. "You appear," he says, "to 
have been for some time so military, that I am afraid the 
most difficult and important part of your original plan, 
namely, your History of Scottish Poetry, will again be 
postponed, and must be kept for some future publication. 
I am, at this moment, much in want of two such assistants 
as you and Leyden. It seems to me, that if I had some 
local knowledge of that wicked Ettrick Forest, I could 
extricate myself tolerably — but as it is, although I am 
convinced that my general idea is tolerably just, I am 
unable to guide my elephants in that quiet and decorous 
step-by-step march which the nature of such animals 
requires through a country of which I don't khow any 
of the roads. My comfort is, that you cannot publish 
Tristrem without a preface, — that you can't write one 
without giving me some assistance, — and that you must 
finish the said preface long before I go to press with my 

This was the Introduction to Ellis's Specimens of An- 
cient English Komances, in which he intended to prove, 
that as - Valentia was, during several ages, the exposed 
frontier of Boman Britain towards the unsubdued tribes 
of the North, and as two whole legions were accordingly 
usually quartered ^here, while one besides sufficed for 
the whole southern part of the island, the manners of 
Valentia, which included the district of Ettrick Forest, 

i8o3 WORDSWORTH 373 

must have been greatly favored by tbe continued residence 
of so many Eoman troops. "It is probable, therefore," 
he says, in another letter, "that the civilization of the 
northern part became gradually the most perfect. That 
country gave birth, as you have observed, to Merlin, and 
to Aneurin, — who was probably the same as the histo- 
rian Gildas. It seems to have given education to Talies- 
sin — it was the country of Bede and Adonnan." 

I shall not quote more on this subject, as the reader 
may turn to, the published essay for Mr. Ellis's matured 
opinions respecting it. To return to his letter of No- 
vember 10, 1803, he proceeds: "And now let me ask 
you about The Lay of the Last Minstrel. That, I think, 
may go on as well in your tent, amidst the clang of trum- 
pets and the dust of the field, as in your quiet cottage — 
perhaps indeed still better — nay, I am not sure whether 
a real invasion would not be, as far as your poetry is 
concerned, a thing to be wished." 

It was in the September of this year that Scott first 
saw Wordsworth. Their common acquaintance, Stod- 
dart, had so often talked of them to each other, that they 
met as if they had not been strangers ; and they parted 

Mr. and Miss Wordsworth had just completed that 
tour in the Highlands, of which so many incidents have 
since been immortalized, both in the poet's verse and in 
the hardly less poetical prose of his sister's Diary. On 
the morning of the 17th of September, having left their 
carriage at Bosslyn, they walked down the valley to Lass- 
wade, and arrived there before Mr. and Mrs. Scott had 
risen. "We were received," Mr. Wordsworth has told 
me,, "with that frank cordiality which, under whatever 
circumstances I afterwards met him, always marked his 
manners ; and, indeed, I found him then in every respect 
— except, perhaps, that his animal spirits were somewhat 
higher — precisely the same man that you knew him in 

374 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 32 

later life; the same lively, entertaining conversation, full 
of anecdote, and averse from disquisition ; the same un- 
affected modesty about himself; the same cheerful and 
benevolent and hopeful views of man and the world. He 
partly read and partly recited, sometimes in an enthusi- 
astic style of chant, the first four cantos of The Lay of 
the Last Minstrel; and the novelty of the manners, the 
clear picturesque descriptions, and the easy glowing 
energy of much of the verse, greatly delighted me." 

After this he walked with the tourists to Bosslyn, and 
promised to meet them in two days at Melrose. The 
night before they reached Melrose they slept at the little 
quiet inn of Clovenford, where, on mentioning his name, 
they were received with all sorts of attention and kind- 
ness, — the landlady observing that Mr. Scott, "who was 
a very clever gentleman," was an old friend of the house, 
and usually spent a good deal of time there during the 
fishing season; but, indeed, says Mr. Wordsworth, 
"wherever we named him, we found the word acted as 
an open sesamum; and I believe, that in the character 
of the Sheriff's friends, we might have counted on a 
hearty welcome under any roof in the Border countiy." 

He met them at Melrose on the 19th, and escorted 
them through the Abbey, pointing out all its beauties, 
and pouring out his rich stores of history and tradition. 
They then dined and spent the evening together at the 
inn ; but Miss Wordsworth observed that there was some 
difficulty about arranging matters for the night, "the 
landlady refusing to settle anything until she had ascer- 
tained from the Sheriff himsdf that he had no objection 
to sleep in the same room with William." Scott was 
thus far on his way to the Circuit Court at Jedburgh, 
in his capacity of Sheriff, and there his new friends again 
joined him ; but he begged that they would not enter the 
court, "for," said he, "I really would not like you to see 
the sort of figure I cut there." They did see him cas- 
ually, however, in his cocked hat and sword, marching 

i8o3 WORDSWORTH 375 

in the Judge's j?rocession to the sound of one cracked 
trumpet, and were then not surprised that he should have 
been a little ashamed of the whole ceremonial. He in- 
troduced to them his friend William Laidlaw, who was 
attending the court as a juryman, and who, having read 
some of Wordsworth's verses in a newspaper, was exceed- 
ingly anxious to be of the party, when they explored at 
leisure, all the law-business being over, the beautiful 
valley of the Jed, and the ruins of the Castle of Fernie- 
herst, the original fastness of the noble family of Lothian. 
The grove of stately ancient elms about and below the 
ruin was seen to great advantage in a fine, gray, breezy 
autumnal afternoon; and Mr. Wordsworth happened to 
say, "What life there is in trees!" — "How different," 
said Scott, "was the feeling of a very intelligent young 
lady, born and bred in the Orkney Islands, who lately 
came to spend a season in this neighborhood ! She told 
me nothing in the mainland scenery had so much disap- 
pointed her as woods and trees. She found them so dead 
and lifeless, that she could never help pining after the 
eternal motion and variety of the ocean. And so back 
she has gone, and I believe nothing will ever tempt her 
from the wind-swept Orcades again." 

Next day they all proceeded together up the Teviot to 
Hawick, Scott entertaining his friends with some legend 
or ballad connected with every tower or rock they passed. 
He made them stop for a little to admire particularly 
a scene of deep and solemn retirement, called Hornets 
Pool, from its having been the daily haunt of a contem- 
plative schoolmaster, known to him in his youth; and at 
Kirkton he pointed out the little village schoolhouse, to 
which his friend Leyden had walked six or eight miles 
every day across the moors, "when a poor barefooted 
boy." From Hawick, where they spent the night, he 
led them next morning to the brow of a hill, from which 
they could see a wide range of the Border mountains, 
Ruberslaw, the Carter, and the Cheviots; and lamented 

376 SIR WALTER SCOTT /et. 32 

that neither their engagements nor his own would permit 
them to make at this time an excursion into the wilder 
glens of Liddesdale, "where," said he, "I have strolled 
so often and so long, that I may say I have a home in 
every farmhouse." "And, indeed," adds Mr. Words- 
worth, "wherever we went with him, he seemed to know 
everybody, and everybody to know and like him." Here 
they parted — the Wordsworths to pursue their journey 
homeward by Eskdale — he to return to Lasswade. 

The impression on Mr., Wordsworth's mind was, that 
on the whole he attached much less importance to his 
literary labors or reputation than to his bodily sports, 
exercises, and social amusements ; and yet he spoke of his 
profession as if he had already given up almost all hope 
of rising by it; and some allusion being made to its 
profits, observed that "he was sure he could, if he chose, 
get more money than he should ever wish to have from 
the booksellers."^ 

This confidence in his own literary resources appeared 
to Mr. Wordsworth remarkable — the more so, from the 
careless way in which its expression dropt from him. As 
to his despondence concerning the Bar, I confess hisyee- 
hook indicates much less ground for such a feeling than 
I should have expected to discover there. His practice 
brought him, as we have seen, in the session of 1796-97, 
£144 10s. ; — its proceeds fell down, in the first year of 
his married life, to £79 17s. ; but they rose again, in 
1798-99, to £135 9s. ; amounted, in 1799-1800, to £129 
13s.; in 1800-1, to £170; in 1801-2, to £202 12s.; and 
in the session that had just elapsed (which is the last in- 
cluded in the record before me), to £228 18s. 

On reaching his cottage in Westmoreland, Wordsworth 

' I have drawn up the account of this meeting from my recollection 
partly of Mr. Wordsworth's conversation — partly from that of his sister's 
charming Diary, which he was so kind as to read over to me on the 16th 
May, 1836. [Dorothy Wordsworth's Beeollections of a Tour made in Scot- 
land, 1803, was first published in full in 1874, under the editorship of Prin- 
cipal Sfaairp.] 

i8o3 WORDSWORTH 377 

addressed a letter to Scott, from which I must quote a 
few sentences. It is dated Grasmere, October 16, 1803. 
" We had a delightful journey home, delightful weather, 
and a sweet country to travel through. We reached our 
little cottage in high spirits, and thankful to God for all 
his bounties. My wife and child were both well, and as 
I need not say, we had all of us a happy meeting. . . . 
We passed Branxholme — your Branxholme, we sup- 
posed — about four miles on this side of Hawick. It 
looks better in your poem than in its present realities. 
The situation, however, is delightful, and makes amends 
for an ordinary mansion. The whole of the Teviot and 
the pastoral steeps about Mosspaul pleased us exceed- 
ingly. The Esk below Langholm is a delicious river, 
and we saw it to great advantage. We did not omit no- 
ticing Johnnie Armstrong's Keep ; but his hanging place, 
to our great regret, we missed. We were, indeed, most 
truly sorry that we could not have you along with us into 
Westmoreland. The country was in its full glory — the 
verdure of the valleys, in which we are so much superior 
to you in Scotland, but little tarnished by the weather, 
and the trees putting on their most beautiful looks. My 
sister was quite enchanted, and we often said to each 
other. What a pity Mr. Scott is not with us ! ... I had 
the pleasure of seeing Coleridge and Southey at Keswick 
last Sunday. Southey, whom I never saw much of be- 
fore, I liked much: he is very pleasant in his manner, 
and a man of great reading in old books, poetry, chroni- 
cles, memoirs, etc., etc., particularly Spanish and Portu- 
guese. . . . My sister and I often talk of the happy 
days that we spent in your company. Such things do 
not occur often in life. If we live we shall meet again ; 
that is my consolation when I think of these things. 
Scotland and England sound like division, do what ye 
can; but we really are but neighbors, and if you were no 
farther off, and in Yorkshire, we should think so. Fare- 
well. God prosper you, and all that belongs to you. 

378 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 32 

Your sincere friend, for such I will call myself, though 
slow to use a word of such solemn meaning to any 
one, W. "W0ED8WOKTH." 

The poet then transcribes his noble Sonnet on Neidpath 
Castle, of which Scott had, it seems, requested a copy. 
In the MS. it stands somewhat differently from the 
printed edition; but in that original shape Scott always 
recited it, and few lines in the language were more fre- 
quently in his mouth.^ 

I have already said something of the beginning of 
Scott's acquaintance with "the Ettrick Shepherd." 
Shortly after their first meeting, Hogg, coming into 
Edinburgh, with a flock of sheep, was seized with a sud- 
den ambition of seeing himself in type, and he wi-ote out 
that same night Willie and Katie, and a few other bal- 
lads, already famous in the Forest, which some obscure 
bookseller gratified him by printing accordingly; but 
they appear to have attracted no notice beyond their ori- 
ginal sphere. Hogg then made an excursion into the 
Highlands, in quest of employment as overseer of some 
extensive sheep-farm; but, though Scott had furnished 

^ [More than a year later, Wordsworth sent to Scott a copy of Yarrow 
Unvisited, saying of the poem : " Yon will find a few stanzas, which I hope 
(for the subject at least) wUl give yon some pleasure. I wrote them, not 
without a view of pleasing you, soon after our return from Scotland. . . . 
They are in the same sort of metre as the Leader Haughs." Scott says in 
his reply : " I am very much flattered by yonr choosing Yarrow for the sub- 
ject of the verses sent mej which shall not pass out of my own hand, nor 
be read except to those worthy of being listeners. At the same time, I by 
no means admit your apology, however ingeniously and artfully stated, for 
not visiting the bonnie holms of Yarrow, and certainly will not rest till I 
have prevailed upon you to compare the ideal with tile real stream. . . . 
There are some good lines in the old ballad, the hunted hare, for instance, 
who mourns that she must leave fair Leaderhaugh, and cannot win to Yar- 
row. And this from early youth has given my bosom a thrill when sung 
or Repeated. 

* For many a place stands in hard case, 

Where blithe folks kend nae sorrow ; 
*Mong8t Homes that dwelt on Leader side, 

And Bcotts that lived on Yarrow.' " 

Familiar Letters, vol. i.: p. 28.] 


him with strong recommen3ations to various friends, he 
returned without success. He printed an account of his 
travels, however, in a set of letters in the Scots Maga- 
zine, which, though exceedingly rugged and uncouth, had 
abundant traces of the native shrewdness and genuine 
poetical feeling of this remarkable man. These also 
failed to excite attention; but, undeterred by such disap- 
pointments, the Shepherd no sooner read the third vol- 
ume of the Minstrelsy, than he made up his mind that 
the Editor's "Imitations of the Ancients " were by no 
means what they should have been. "Immediately," he 
says, in one of his many Memoirs of himself, "I chose 
a number of traditional facts, and set about imitating 
the manner of the ancients myself." These imitations 
he transmitted to Scott, who warmly praised the many 
striking beauties scattered over their rough surface. The 
next time that Hogg's business carried him to Edinburgh, 
he waited upon Scott, who invited him to dinner in Cas- 
tle Street, in company with William Laidlaw, who hap- 
pened also to be in town, and some other admirers of the 
rustic genius. When Hogg entered the drawing-room, 
Mrs. Scott, being at the time in a delicate state of health, 
was reclining on a sofa. The Shepherd, after being pre- 
sented, and making his best bow, forthwith took posses- 
sion of another sofa placed opposite to hers, and stretched 
himself thereupon at all his length; for, as he said after- 
wards, "I thought I could never do wrong to copy the 
lady of the house." As his dress at this period was pre- 
cisely that in which any ordinary herdsman attends cattle 
to the market, and as his hands, moreover, bore most 
legible marks of a recent sheep-smearing, the lady of the 
house did not observe with perfect equanimity the novel 
usage to which her chintz was exposed. The Shepherd, 
however, remarked nothing of all this — dined heartily 
and drank freely, and, by jest, anecdote, and song, af- 
forded plentiful merriment to the more civilized part of 
the company. As the liquor operated, his familiarity 

38o SIR WALTER SCOTT mr. 32 

increased and strengthened; from "Mr. Scott," he ad- 
vanced to "Sherra," and thence to "Scott," "Walter," 
and "Wattie," — until, at supper, he fairly convulsed the 
whole party by addressing Mrs. Scott as "Charlotte." 

The collection entitled The Mountain Bard was event- 
ually published by Constable, in consequence of Scott's 
recommendation, and this work did at last afford Hogg 
no slender share of the popular reputation for which he 
had so long thirsted. It is not my business, however, to 
pursue the details of his story. What I have written was 
only to render intelligible the following letter : — 


EiXBiCK-HonsE, December 24, 1803. 

Dear Me. Scott, — I have been very impatient to hear 
from you. There is a certain affair of which you and I talked 
a little in private, and which must now be concluded, that nat- 
urally increaseth this. 

I am afraid that I was at least half-seas over the night I was 
with you, for I cannot, for my life, recollect what passed when 
it was late ; and, there being certainly a small vacuum in my 
brain, which, when empty, is quite empty, but is sometimes 
supplied with a small distillation of intellectual matter — this 
must have been empty that night, or it never could have been 
taken possession of by the fumes of the liquor so easily. If I 
was in the state in which I suspect that I was, I must have 
spoke a very great deal of nonsense, for which I beg ten thou- 
sand pardons. I have the consolation, however, of remembering 
that Mrs. Scott kept in company all or most of the time, which 
she certainly could not have done, had I been very rude. I 
remember, too, of the filial injunction you gave at parting, cau- 
tioning me against being ensnared by the loose women in town. 
I am sure I had not reason enough left at that time to express 
either the half of my gratitude for the kind hint, or the utter 
abhorrence I inherit at those seminaries of lewdness. 

You once promised me your best advice in the first lawsuit 
in which I had the particular happiness of being engaged. I 


a.m now going to ask it seriously in an affair, in which, I am 
sure, we will both take as much pleasure. It is this : I have 
as many songs beside me, which are certainly the worst of my 
productions, as will make about one himdred pages close printed, 
■ and about two hundred, printed as the Minstrelsy is. Now, 
although I will not proceed without your consent and advice, 
yet I would have you to understand that I expect it, and have 
the scheme much at heart at present. The first thing that 
suggested it, was their extraordinary repute in Ettrick and its 
neighborhood, and being everlastingly plagued with writing 
copie's, and promising scores which I never meant to perform. 
As my last pamphlet was never known, save to a few friends, 
I wish your advice what pieces of it are worth preserving. The 
Pastoral I am resolved to insert, as I am Sandy Tod. As 
to my manuscripts, they are endless ; and as I doubt you will 
disapprove of publishing them wholesale, and letting the good 
help off the bad, I think you must trust to my discretion in the 
selection of a few. I wish likewise to know if you think a 
graven image on the first leaf is any recommendation ; and if 
we might front the songs with a letter to you, giving an. impar- 
tial account of my manner of life and education, and, which if 
you pleased to transcribe, putting He for I. Again, there is no 
publishing a book without a patron, and I have one or two in 
my eye, and of which I wiU, with my wonted assurance to you, 
give you the most free choice. The first is Walter Scott, Esq., 
Advocate, Sheriff-depute of Ettrick Forest, which, if permitted, 
I will address you in a dedication singular enough. The next 
is. Lady Dalkeith, which, if you approved of, you must become 
the Editor yourself ; and I shall give you my word for it, that 
neither word nor sentiment in it shall offend the most delicate 
ear. You will not be in the least jealous, if, alongst with my 
services to you, I present my kindest compliments to the sweet 
little lady whom you call Charlotte. As for Camp and Walter 
(I beg pardon for this preeminence), they wiU not mind them 
if I should exhaust my eloquence in compliments. Believe me. 
Dear Walter, your most devoted servant, 

James Hoee. 

The reader will, I doubt not, be particularly amused 
with one of the suggestions in this letter; namely, that 

382 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 32 

Scott should transcribe the Shepherd's narrative in fore 
of his life and education, and merely putting "He" for 
"I," adopt it as his own composition. James, however, 
would have had no hesitation about offering a similar 
suggestion either to Scott, or Wordsworth, or Byron, at 
any period of their renown. To say nothing about mod- 
esty, his notions of literary honesty were always exceed- 
ingly loose; but, at the same time, we must take into 
account his peculiar notions, or rather no notions, as to 
the proper limits of a joke. 

Literature, like misery, makes men acquainted with 
strange bedfellows. Let us return from the worthy 
Shepherd of Ettrick to the courtly wit and scholar of 
Sunning Hill. In the last quoted of his letters, he ex- 
presses his fear that Scott's military avocations might 
cause him to publish the Tristrem unaccompanied by his 
Essay on the History of Scottish Poetry. It is need- 
less to add that no ^uch Essay ever was completed ; but I 
have heard Scott say that his plan had been to begin with 
the age of Thomas of Ercildoune, and bring the subject 
down to his own, illustrating each stage of his progress 
by a specimen of verse — imitating every great master's 
style, as he had done that of the original Sir Tristrem in 
his Obndusion, Such a series of pieces from his hand 
would have been invaluable, merely as bringing out in 
a clear manner the gradual divarication of the two great 
dialects of the English tongue; but seeing by his Verses 
on a Poacher, written many years after this, in pro- 
fessed imitation of Crabbe, with what happy art he could 
pour the poetry of his own mind into the mould of an- 
other artist, it is impossible to doubt that we have lost 
better things than antiquarian illumination by the non- 
completion of a design in which he should have embraced 
successively the tone and measure of Douglas, Dunbar, 
Lindesay, Montgomerie, Hamilton, Bamsay, Fergusson, 
and Burns. 

The Tristrem was now far advanced at press. He 

i8o4 SIR TRISTREM 383 

says to Ellis, on the 19tli March, 1804, "As I had a 
world of things to say to you, I have been culpably, but 
most naturally, silent. When you turn a bottle with its 
head downmost, you must have remarked that the ex- 
treme impatience of the contents to get out all at once 
greatly impedes their getting out at all. I have, how- 
ever, been forming the resolution of sending a grand 
packet with Sir Tristrem, who will kiss your hands in 
about a fortnight. I intend uncastrated copies for you, 
Heber, and Mr. Douce, who, I am willing to hope, will 
accept this mark of my great respect and warm remem- 
brance of his kindness while in London. — Pray send me 
without delay the passage referring to Thomas in the 
French ' Hornchild. ' Far from being daunted with the 
position of the enemy, I am resolved to carry it at the 
point of the bayonet, and, like an able general, to attack 
where it would be difficult to defend. Without metaphor 
or parable, I am determined, not only that my Tomas 
shall be the author of Tristrem, but that he shall be the 
author of Hornchild also. I must, however, read over 
the romance, before I can make my arrangements. Hold- 
ing, with Kitson, that the copy in his collection is trans- 
lated from the French, I do not see why we should not 
suppose that the French had been originally a version 
from our Thomas. The date does not greatly frighten 
me, as I have extended Thomas of Ercildoune's life to 
the threescore and ten years of the Psalmist, and conse- 
quently removed back the date of Sir Tristrem to 1250. 
The French translation might be written for that matter 
within a few days after Thomas's work was completed — 
and I can allow a few years. He lived on the Border, 
already possessed by Norman families, and in the vicinity 
of Northumberland, where there were many more. Do 
you think the minstrels of the Percies, the Vescies, the 
Morells, the Grais, and the De Vaux, were not ac- 
quainted with honest Thomas, their next door neighbor, 
who was a poet, and wrote excellent tales — and, more- 

384 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 32 

over, a laird, and gave, I dare be sworn, good dinners? 
And would they not anxiously translate, for the amuse- 
ment of their masters, a story like Hornchild, so inti- 
mately connected with the lands in which they had set- 
tled ? And do you not think, from the whole structure 
of Hornchild, however often translated and retranslated, 
that it must have been originally of northern extraction? 
I have not time to tell you certain suspicions I entertain 
that Mr. Douce's fragments are the work of one BaouU 
de Beauvais, who flourished about the middle of the thir- 
teenth century, and for whose accommodation principally 
I have made Thomas, to use a military phrase, dress 
backwards for ten years." 

All this playful language is exquisitely characteristic 
of Scott's indomitable adherence to his own views. But 
his making Thomas dress backwards — and resolving 
that, if necessary, he shall be the author of Hornchild, 
as well as Sir Tristrem — may perhaps remind the reader 
of Don Quixote's method of repairing the headpiece 
which, as originally constructed, one blow had sufficed to 
demolish; — "Not altogether approving of his having 
broken it to pieces with so much ease, to secure himself 
from the like danger for the future, he made it over 
again, fencing it with small bars of iron within, in such 
a manner, that he rested satisfied of its strength — and, 
without caring to make afresh experiment on it, he ap- 
proved and looked upon it as a most excellent helmet." 

Ellis having made some observations on Scott's article 
upon Godwin's Life of Chaucer, which implied a notion 
that he had formed a regular connection with the Edin- 
burgh Eeview, he in the same letter says, "I quite 
agree with you as to the general conduct of the Review, 
which savors more of a wish to display than to instruct; 
but as essays, many of the articles are invaluable, and 
the principal conductor is a man of very acute and uni- 
versal talent. I am not regularly connected with the 
work, nor have I either inclination or talents to use the 

i8o4 SIR TRISTREM 385 

critical scalping knife, unless as in the case of Godwin, 
where flesh and blood succumbed under the temptation. 
I don't know if you have looked into his tomes, of which 
a whole edition has vanished — I was at a loss to know 
how, till I conjectured that, as the heaviest materials to 
be come at, they have been sent on the secret expedition, 
planned by Mr. Phillips and adopted by our sapient 
Government, for blocking up the mouth of our enemy's 
harbors. They should have had my free consent to take 
Phillips and Godwin, and all our other lumber, literary 
and political, for the same beneficial purpose. But in 
general, I think it ungentlemanly to wound any person's 
feelings through an anonymous publication, unless where 
conceit or false doctrine strongly calls for reprobation. 
Where praise can be conscientiously mingled in a larger 
proportion than blame, there is always some amusement 
in throwing together our ideas upon the works of our 
fellow-laborers, and no injustice in publishing them. On 
such occasions, and in our way, I may possibly, once or 
twice a year, furnish my critical friends with an article." 
Sir Tristrem was at length published on the 2d of 
May, 1804, by Constable, who, however, expected so 
little popularity for the work that the edition consisted 
only of 150 copies. These were sold at a high price (two 
guineas), otherwise they would not have been enough to 
cover the expenses of paper and printing. Mr. Ellis, 
and Scott's other antiquarian friends, were much dissat- 
isfied with these arrangements; but I doubt not that 
Constable was a better judge than any of them. The 
work, however, partook in due time of the favor attend- 
ing its editor's name. In 1806, 750 copies were called 
for; and 1000 in 1811. After that time Sir Tristrem 
was included in the collective editions of Scott's poetry; 
but he had never parted with the copyright, merely allow- 
ing his general publishers to insert it among his other 
works, whenever they chose to do so, as a matter of cour- 
tesy. It was not a performance from which he had ever 

386 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 32 

anticipated any pecuniary profit, but it maintained at 
least, if it did not raise, his reputation in the circle of 
his fellow-antiquaries; and his own Conclusion, in the 
manner of the original romance, must always be admired 
as a remarkable specimen of skill and dexterity. 

As to the arguments of the Introduction, I shall not 
in this place attempt any discussion.^ Whether the story 
of Tristrem was first told in Welsh, Armorican, French, 
or English verse, there can, I think, be no doubt that it 
had been told in verse, with such success as to obtain 
very general renown, by Thomas of Ercildoune, and that 
the copy edited by Scott was either the composition of 
one who had heard the old Ehymer recite his lay, or the 
identical lay itself. The introduction of Thomas's name 
in the third person, as not the author, but the author's 
authority, appears to have had a great share in convin- 
cing Scott that the Auchinleck MS. contained not the 
original, but the copy of an English admirer and con- 
temporary. This point seems to have been rendered more 
doubtful by some quotations in the recent edition of 
Warton's History of English Poetry; but the argument 
derived from the enthusiastic exclamation "God help Sir 
Tristrem the knight — he fought for England ! " stiU re- 
mains; and stronger perhaps even than that, in the 
opinion of modern philologists, is the total absence of any 
Scottish or even Northumbrian peculiarities in the diction. 

AU this controversy may be waived here. Scott's 
object and delight was to revive the fame of the Ehymer, 
whose traditional history he had listened to while yet an 
infant among the crags of Smailholme. He had already 
celebrated him in a noble ballad ; ^ he now devoted a vol- 

' The critical reader will find all the learning on the snhject brought 
together with much ability in the Preface to The Poetical Bomances of 
Tristan, in French, in Anglo-Korman, and in Greek, composed in the 
Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries — Edited by Francisqne Michel, 2 vols., 
London, 1885. 

2 See the Minstrelsy (Edition 1833), vol. it. p. 110. [Also Poetical 
Works, Cambridge Edition, pp. 32-37.] 

i8o4 SIR TRISTREM 387 

ume to elucidate a fragment supposed to be substantially 
his work ; and we shall find that thirty years after, when 
the lamp of his own genius was all but spent, it could 
still revive and throw out at least some glimmerings of 
its original brightness at the name of Thomas of Ercil- 

^ See Castle Dangermu, chap. t. 




It has been mentioned, that in the course of the pre- 
ceding summer, the Lord-Lieutenant of Selkirkshire 
complained of Scott's military zeal as interfering some- 
times with the discharge of his shrieval functions, and 
took occasion to remind him, that the law, requiring 
every Sheriff to reside at least four months in the year 
within his own jurisdiction, had not hitherto been com- 
plied with. It appears that Scott received this communi- 
cation with some displeasure, being conscious that no 
duty of any importance had ever been neglected by him; 
well knowing that the law of residence was not enforced 
in the cases of many of his brother sheriffs ; and, in fact, 
ascribing his Lord -Lieutenant's con^plaint to nothing but 
a certain nervous fidget as to all points of form, for which 
that respectable nobleman was notorious, as well became, 
perhaps, an old High Commissioner to the General As- 
sembly of the Kirk. Scott, however, must have been 
found so clearly in the wrong, had the case been submit- 
ted to the Secretary of State, and Lord Napier conducted 
the correspondence with such courtesy, never failing to 
allege as a chief argument the pleasure which it would 
afford himself and the other gentlemen of Selkirkshire to 
have more of their Sheriff's society, that, while it would 
have been highly imprudent to persist, there could be no 
mortification in yielding. He flattered himself that his 

i8o4 ASHESTIEL 389 

active habits would enable him to maintain his connection 
with the Edinburgh Cavalry as usual ; and, perhaps, he 
also flattered himseK, that residing for the summer in 
Selkirkshire would not interfere more seriously with his 
business as a barrister, than the occupation of the cottage 
at Lasswade had hitherto done. 

While he was seeking about, accordingly, for some 
"lodge in the Forest," his kinsman of Harden suggested 
that the tower of Auld Wat might be refitted, so as to 
serve his purpose ; and he received the proposal with en- 
thusiastic delight. On a more careful inspection of the 
localities, however, he became sensible that he would be 
practically at a greater distance from county business of 
all kinds at Harden, than if he were to continue at Lass- 
wade. Just at this time, the house of Ashestiel, situated 
on the southern bank of the Tweed, a few miles from 
Selkirk, became vacant by the death of its proprietor, 
Colonel Russell, who had married a sister of Scott's 
mother, and the consequent dispersion of the family. 
The young laird of Ashestiel, his cousin, was then in 
India; and the Sheriff took a lease of the house and 
grounds, with a small farm adjoining. On the 4th May, 
two days after the Tristrem had been published, he says 
to Ellis, "I have been engaged in travelling backwards 
and forwards to Selkirkshire upon little pieces of busi- 
ness, just important enough to prevent my doing any- 
thing to purpose. One great matter, however, I have 
achieved, which is, procuring myself a place of residence, 
which will save me these teasing migrations in future, so 
that, though I part with my sweet little cottage on the 
banks of the Esk, you will find me this summer in the 
very centre of the ancient Eeged, in a decent farmhouse 
overhanging the Tweed, and situated in a wild pastoral 
country." And again, on the 19th, he thus apologizes 
for not having answered a letter of the 10th: "For more 
than a month my head was fairly tenanted by ideas, 
which, though strictly pastoral and rural, were neither 

390 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 32 

literary nor poetical. Long sheep and short sheep, and 
tups and gimmers, and Ao^s and dinmonts, had made a 
perfect sheepfold of my understanding, which is hardly 
yet cleared of them.^ — I hope Mrs. Ellis will clap a 
bridle on her imagination. Ettrick Forest boasts finely 
shaped hills and clear romantic streams; but, alas, they 
are bare, to wildness, and denuded of the beautiful natu- 
ral wood with which they were formerly shaded. It is 
mortifying to see that, though wherever the sheep are 
excluded, the copse has immediately sprung up in abun- 
dance, so that enclosures only are wanting to restore the 
wood wherever it might be useful or ornamental, yet 
hardly a proprietor has attempted to give it fair play for 
a resurrection. . . . You see we reckon positively on 
you — the more because our arch-critic Jeffrey tells me 
that he met you in London, and found you still inclined 
for a northern trip. All our wise men in the north are 
rejoiced at the prospect of seeing George Ellis. If you 
delay your journey till July, I shall then be free of the 

' Describing bis meeting vitb Scott in the sununer of 1801, James Hogg 
says : " Dnring the sociality of the evening, the discourse ran very much 
on the different breeds of sbeep, that cnrse of the community of Ettrick 
Forest. The original black-faced Forest breed being always called the 
short sheg), and the Cheviot breed the long sheep, the disputes at that period 
ran very high about the practicable profits of each. Mr. Scott, who had 
come into that remote district to preserve what fragments remained of its 
legendary lore, was rather bored with everlasting qnestipns of the long 
and the short sheep. So at length, putting on his most serious, calculat- 
ing face, he turned to Mr. Walter Bryden, and said, ' I am rather at a loss 
regarding the merits of this very important question. How long mnst a 
sheep actually measure to come under the denomination of a long sheep i ' 
Mr. Bryden, who, in the simplicity of his heart, neither perceived the quiz 
nor the reproof, fell to answer with great sincerity. ' It 's the woo' 
[wool], sir — it's the woo' that makes the difference. The lang sheep 
ha'e the short woo', and the short sheep ha'e the lang thing, and these are 
just kind o' names we gi'e them, like.' Mr. Scott could not preserve his 
grave face of strict calculation : it went gradually awry, and a hearty 
gu£Eaw " [i. e., horselaugh] " followed. When I saw the very same words 
repeated near the beginning of the Black Dwarf, how could I be mis- 
taken of the author ? " — Autobiography prefixed to Hogg's Altrive 


Courts of Law, and will meet you upon the Border, at 
whatever side you enter." 

The business part of these letters refers to Scott's 
brother Daniel, who, as he expresses it, "having been 
bred to the mercantile line, had been obliged by some 
untoward circumstances, particularly an imprudent con- 
nection with an artful woman, to leave Edinburgh for 
Liverpool, and now to be casting his eyes towards Ja- 
maica." Scott requests Ellis to help him if he can, by 
introducing him to some of his own friends or agents in 
that island; and Ellis furnishes him accordingly with 
letters to Mr. Blackburn, a friend and brother propri- 
etor, who appears to have paid Daniel Scott every possi- 
ble attention, and soon provided him with suitable em- 
ployment on a healthy part of his estates. But the same 
low tastes and habits which had reduced the unfortunate 
yoimg man to the necessity of expatriating himself, re- 
curred after a brief season of penitence and order, and 
continued until he had accumulated great affliction upon 
all his family. 

On the 10th of June, 1804, died, at his seat of Eose- 
bank, Captain Robert Scott, the affectionate uncle whose 
name has often occurred in this narrative.^ "He was," 
says his nephew to Ellis, on the 18th, "a man of univer- 
sal benevolence and great kindness towards his friends, 
and to me individually. His manners were so much 
tinged with the habits of celibacy as to render them pecu- 
liar, though by no means unpleasingly so, and his profes- 
sion (that of a seaman) gave a high coloring to the whole. 
The loss is one which, though the course of nature led 
me to expect it, did not take place at last without con- 
siderable pain to my feelings. The arrangement of his 
affairs, and the distribution of his small fortune among 

1 In the obituary of the Scots Magazine ioi tiaa moDiii I find: "TJni- 
Tersally regretted, Captain Robert Scott of Bosebank, a, gentleman whose 
life afforded an uniform example of unostentatious charity and extensive 

392 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 32 

his relations, will devolve in a great measure upon me. 
He has distinguished me by leaving me a beautiful little 
villa on Uie banks of the Tweed, with every possible con- 
venience annexed to it, and about thirty acres of the 
finest land in Scotland. Notwithstanding, however, the 
temptation that this bequest offers, I continue to pursue 
my Eeged plan, and expect to be settled at Ashestiel in 
the course of a month. Bosebank is situated so near the 
village of Kelso as hardly to be sufficiently a country 
residence; besides, it is hemmed in by hedges and 
ditches, not to mention Dukes and Lady Dowagers, which 
are bad things for little people. It is expected to sell to 
great advantage. I shall buy a moimtain farm with the 
purchase-money, and be quite the Laird of the Cairn and 
the Scaur." 

Scott sold Kosebank in the course of the year for 
£5000; his share (being a ninth) of his uncle's other 
property amounted, I believe, to about £500; and he 
had besides a legacy of £100 in his quality of trustee. 
This bequest made an important change in his pecuniary 
position, and influenced accordingly the arrangements of 
his future life. Independently of practice at the Bar, 
and of literary profits, he was now, with his little patri- 
mony, his Sheriffship, and about £200 per annum arisihg 
from the stock ultimately settled on his wife, in posses- 
sion of a fixed revenue of nearly, if not quite, £1000 
a year. 

On the 1st of August he writes to Ellis from Ashestiel : 
"Having had only about a hundred and fifty things to 
do, I have scarcely done anything, and yet could not give 
myself leave to suppose that I had leisure to write letters. 
1st, I had this farmhouse to furnish from sales, from 
brokers' shops, and from all manner of hospitals for in- 
curable furniture. 2dly, I had to let my cottage on the 
banks of the Esk. 3dly, I had to arrange matters for 
the sale of Eosebank. 4thly, I had to go into quarters 
with our cavalry, which made a very idle fortnight in the 


midst of all this business. Last of all, I had to superin- 
tend a removal, or what we call a flitting, which, of all 
bores under the cope of Heaven, is bore the most tremen- 
dous. After all these storms, we are now most comfort- 
ably settled, and have only to regret deeply our disap- 
pointment at finding your northern march blown up. 
We had been projecting about twenty expeditions, and 
were pleasing ourselves at Mrs. Ellis's expected surprise 
on finding herself so totally built in by mountains, as I 
am at the present writing hereof. We are seven miles 
from kirk and market. We rectify the last inconven- 
ience by killing our own mutton and poultry ; and as to 
the former, finding there was some chance of my family 
tuHiing pagans, I have adopted the goodly practice of 
reading prayers every Sunday, to the great edification of 
my household. Think of this, you that have the happi- 
ness to be within two steps of the church, and commiser- 
ate those who dwell in the wilderness. I showed Char- 
lotte yesterday the CatraU, and told her that to inspect 
that venerable monument was one main object of your 
intended journey to Scotland. She is^ of opinion that 
ditches must be more scarce in the neighborhood of 
Windsor Forest than she had hitherto had the least idea 

Ashestiel will be visited by many for his sake, as long 
as Waverley and Marmion are remembered. A more 
beautiful situation for the residence of a poet could not 
be conceived. The house was then a small one, but, 
compared with the cottage at Lasswade, its accommoda- 
tions were amply sufficient. You approached it through 
an old-fashioned garden, with holly hedges, and broad, 
green, terrace walks. On one side, close under the win- 
dows, is a deep ravine, clothed with venerable trees, down 
which a mountain rivulet is heard, more than seen, in its 
progress to the Tweed. The river itself is separated 
from the high bank on which the house stands only by a 
narrow meadow of the richest verdure. Opposite, and 

394 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. ^3 

all around, are the green hills. The valley there is nar- 
row, and the aspect in every direction is that of perfect 
pastoral repose. The heights immediately behind are 
those which divide the Tweed from the Yarrow; and the 
latter celebrated stream lies within an easy ride, in the 
course of which the traveller passes through a variety of 
the finest mountain scenery in the south of Scotland. 
No town is within seven miles but Selkirk, which was 
then still smaller and quieter than it is now; there was 
hardly even a gentleman's family within visiting distance, 
except at Yair, a few miles lower on the Tweed, the an- 
cient seat of the Pringles of Whytbank, and at Bowhill, 
between the Yarrow and Ettrick, where the Earl of Dal- 
keith used occasionally to inhabit a small shooting-lodge, 
which has since grown into a magnificent ducal residence. 
The country all around, with here and there an insignifi- 
cant exception, belongs to the Buccleuch estate; so that, 
whichever way he chose to turn, the bard of the clan had 
ample room and verge enough, and all appliances to boot, 
for every variety of field sport that might happen to 
please his fancy; and being then in the prime vigor of 
manhood, he was not slow to profit by these advantages. 
Meantime, the concerns of his own little farm, and the 
care of his absent relation's woods, gave him healthful 
occupation in the intervals of the chase ; and he had 
long, solitary evenings for the uninterrupted exercise of 
his pen; perhaps, on the whole, better opportunities of 
study than he had ever enjoyed before, or was to meet 
with elsewhere in later days. 

When he first examined Ashestiel, with a view to being 
his cousin's tenant, he thought of taking home James 
Hogg to superintend the sheep-farm, and keep watch 
over the house also during the winter. I am not able to 
tell exactly in what manner this proposal fell to the 
ground. In January, 1804, the Shepherd writes to him : 
"I have no intention of waiting for so distant a pros- 
pect as that of being manager of your farm, though I 

i8o4 JAMES HOGG 395 

have no doubt of our joint endeavor proving successful, 
nor yet of your willingness to employ me in that capacity. 
His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch hath at present a farm 
vacant in Eskdale, and I have been importuned by friends 
to get a letter from you and apply for it. You can 
hardly be conscious what importance your protection hath 
given me already, not only in mine own eyes, but even 
in those of others. You might write to him, or to any 
of the family you are best acquainted with, stating that 
such and such a character was about leaving his native 
country for want of a residence in the farming line." I 
am very doubtful if Scott — however willing to encounter 
the risk of employing Hogg as his own grieve or bailiff 
— would have felt himself justified at this, or indeed at 
any time, in recommending him as the tenant of a consid- 
erable farm on the Duke of Buccleuch 's estate. But I 
am also quite at a loss to comprehend how Hogg should 
have conceived it possible, at this period, when he cer- 
tainly had no capital whatever, that the Duke's Cham- 
berlain should agree to accept him for a tenant, on any 
attestation, however strong, as to the excellence of his 
character and intentions. Be that as it may, if Scott 
made the application which the Shepherd suggested, it 
failed. So did a negotiation which he certainly did enter 
upon about the same time with the late Earl of Caernar- 
von (then Lord Porchester), through that nobleman's 
aunt, Mrs. Scott of Harden, with the view of obtaining 
for Hogg the situation of bailiff on one of his Lordship's 
estates in the west of England; and such, I believe, was 
the result of several other attempts of the same kind with 
landed proprietors nearer home. Perhaps the Shepherd 
had already set his heart so much on taking rank as a 
farmer in his own district, that he witnessed the failure 
of any such negotiations with indifference. As regards 
the management of Ashestiel, I find no trace of that pro- 
posal having ever been renewed. 

In truth, Scott had hardly been a week in possession 

396 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 33 

of his new domains, before he made acquaintance with 
a character much better suited to his purpose than James 
Hogg ever could have been. I mean honest Thomas 
Purdie, his faithful servant — his affectionately devoted 
humble friend from this time until death parted them. 
Tom was first brought before him, in his capacity of 
Sheriff, on a charge of poaching, when the poor fellow 
gave such a touching account of his circumstances, — a 
wife, and I know not how many children, depending on 
his exertions — work scarce and grouse abundant, — and 
all this with a mixture of odd sly humor, — that the 
Sheriff's heart was moved. Tom escaped the penalty of 
the law — was taken into employment as shepherd, and 
showed such zeal, activity, and shrewdness in that capa- 
city, that Scott never had any occasion to repent of the 
step he soon afterwards took, in promoting him to the 
position which had been originally offered to James 

It was also about the same time that he took into his 
service as coachman Peter Mathieson, brother-in-law to 
Thomas Purdie, another faithful servant, who never 
afterwards left him, and still survives his kind master. 
Scott's awkward management of the little phaeton had 
exposed his wife to more than one perilous overturn, be- 
fore he agreed to set up a close carriage, and call in the 
assistance of this steady charioteer. 

During this autumn Scott formed the personal ac- 
quaintance of Mungo Park, the celebrated victim of Afri- 
can discovery. On his return from his first expedition, 
Park endeavored to establish himself as a medical practi- 
tioner in the town of Hawick, but the drudgeries of that 
calling in such a district soon exhausted his ardent tem- 
per, and he was now living in seclusion in his native cot- 
tage at Fowlsheils on the Yarrow, nearly opposite Newark 
Castle. His brother, Archibald Park (then tenant of 
a large farm on the Buccleuch estate), a man remarkable 
for strength both of mind and body, introduced the trav- 

i8o4 MUNGO PARK 397 

eller to the Sheriff. They soon became much attached to 
each other; and Scott supplied some interesting anecdotes 
of their brief intercourse to Mr. Wishaw, the editor of 
Park's posthumous Journal, with which I shall blend a 
few minor circumstances, gathered from him in conversa- 
tion long afterwards. "On one occasion," he says, "the 
traveller communicated to him some very remarkable 
adventures which had befallen him in Africa, but which 
he had not recorded in his book." On Scott's asking the 
cause of this silence, Mungo answered, "That in all 
cases where he had information to communicate, which 
he thought of importance to the public, he had stated the 
facts boldly, leaving it to his readers to give such credit 
to his statements as they might appear justly to deserve ; 
but that he would not shock their faith, or render his travels 
more marvellous, by introducing circumstances, which, 
however true, were of little or no moment, as they related 
solely to his own personal adventures and escapes." This 
reply struck Scott as highly characteristic of the man; 
and though strongly tempted to set down some of these 
marvels for Mr. Wishaw's use, he on reflection abstained 
from doing so, holding it unfair to record what the adven- 
turer had deliberately chosen to suppress in his own nar- 
rative. He confirms the account given by Park's bio- 
grapher, of his cold and, reserved manners to strangers; 
and, in particular, of his disgust with the indirect ques- 
tions which curious visitors would often put to him upon 
the subject of his travels. "This practice," said Mungo, 
"exposes me to two risks; either that I may not under- 
stand the questions meant to be put, or that my answers 
to them may be misconstrued;" and he contrasted such 
conduct with the frankness of Scott's revered friend, Dr. 
Adam Ferguson, wh6, the very first day the traveller 
dined with him at Hallyards, spread a large map of 
Africa on the table, and made him trace out his progress 
thereupon, inch by inch, questioning him minutely as to 
every step he had taken. "Here, however," says Scott, 

398 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 33 

"Dr. F. was using a prlyilege to whicL he was well enti- 
tled by his venerable age and high literary character, but 
which could not have been exercised with propriety by 
any common stranger." 

Calling one day at Fowlsheils, and not finding Park 
at home, Scott walked in search of him along the banks 
of the Yarrow, which in that neighborhood passes over 
various ledges of rock, forming deep pools and eddies 
between them. Presently he discovered his friend stand- 
ing alone on the bank, plunging one stone after another 
into the water, and watching anxiously the bubbles as 
they rose to the surface. "This," said Scott, "appears 
but an idle amusement for one who has seen so much 
stirring adventure." "Not so idle, perhaps, as you 
suppose," answered Mungo: "This was the manner in 
which I used to ascertain the depth of a river in Africa 
before I ventured to cross it — judging whether the at- 
tempt would be safe, by the time the bubbles of air took 
to ascend." At this time Park's intention of a second 
expedition had never been revealed to Scott; but he in- 
stantly formed the opinion that these experiments on 
Yarrow were connected with some such purpose. 

His thoughts had always continued to be haunted with 
Africa. He told Scott, that whenever he awoke suddenly 
in the night, owing to a nervous disorder with which he 
was troubled, he fancied himself still a prisoner in the 
tent of Ali ; but when the poet expressed some surprise 
that he should design again to revisit those scenes, he 
answered, that he would rather brave Africa and all its 
horrors, than wear out his life in long and toilsome rides 
over the hills of Scotland, for which the remuneration 
was hardly enough to keep soul and body together. 

Towards the end of the autumn, when about to quit 
his country for the last time. Park paid Scott a farewell 
visit, and slept at Ashestiel. Next morning his host 
accompanied him homewards over the wild chain of hills 
between the Tweed and the Yarrow. Park talked much 

i8o4 MUNGO PARK ;^gg 

of his new scheme, and mentioned his determination to 
tell his family that he had some business for a day or two 
in Edinburgh, and send them his blessing from thence, 
without returning to take leave. He had married, not 
long before, a pretty and amiable woman ; and when they 
reached the Williamhope ridge, "the autumnal mist 
floating heavily and slowly down the valley of the Yar- 
row " presented to Scott's imagination "a striking em- 
blem of the troubled and uncertain prospect which his 
undertaking afforded." He remained, however, un- 
shaken, and at length they reached the spot at which 
they had agreed to separate. A small ditch divided the 
moor from the road, and, in going over it, Park's horse 
stumbled, and nearly fell. "I am afraid, Mungo," said 
the Sheriff, "that is a bad omen." To which he an- 
swered, smiling, ^'JPreits (omens) follow those who look 
to them." With this expression Mungo struck the spurs 
into his horse, and Scott never saw him again. His 
parting proverb, by the way, was probably suggested by 
one of the Border ballads, in which species of lore he was 
almost as great a proficient as the Sheriff himself; for 
we read in Edom o' Gordon, — 

" Them look to freits, my master dear, 
Then freits will follow them." 

I must not omit that George Scott, the unfortunate 
companion of Park's second journey, was the son of a 
tenant on the Buccleuch estate, whose skill in drawing 
having casually attracted the Sheriff's attention, he was 
recommended by him to the protection of the family, and 
by this means established in a respectable situation in 
the Ordnance department of the Tower of London; but 
the stories of his old acquaintance Mungo Park's discov- 
eries had made such an impression on his fancy, that 
nothing could prevent his accompanying him on the fatal 
expedition of 1805. 

The brother of Mungo Park remained in Scott's neigh- 
borhood for some years, and was frequently his compan- 

400 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 33 

ion in his mountain rides. Though a man of the most 
dauntless temperament, he was often alarmed at Scott's 
reckless horsemanship. "The de'il 's in ye, Sherra," he 
would say; "ye '11 never halt till they bring you hame 
with your feet foremost." He rose greatly in favor, in 
consequence of the gallantry with which he assisted the 
Sheriff in seizing a gypsy, accused of murder, from amidst 
a group of similar desperadoes, on whom they had come 
unexpectedly in a desolate part of the country. 

To return to The Lay of the Last Minstrel: EUis, 
understanding it to be now nearly ready for the press, 
writes to Scott, urging him to set it forth with some 
engraved illustrations — if possible, after Flaxman, whose 
splendid designs from Homer had shortly before made 
their appearance. He answers, August 21: "I should 
have liked very much to have had appropriate embellish- 
ments. Indeed, we made some attempts of the kind, but 
they did not succeed. I should fear Flaxman's genius 
is too classic to stoop to body forth my Gothic Borderers. 
Would there not be some risk of their resembling the 
antique of Homer's heroes, rather than the iron race of 
Salvator? After all, perhaps, nothing is more difficult 
than for a painter to adopt the author's ideas of an imagi- 
nary character, especially when it is founded on traditions 
to which the artist is a stranger. I should like at least 
to be at his elbow when at work. I wish very much I 
could have sent you the Lay while in MS., to have had 
the advantage of your opinion and corrections. But 
Ballantyne galled my kibes so severely during an unusual 
fit of activity, that I gave him the whole story in a sort 
of pet both with him and with it. ... I have lighted 
upon a very good amanuensis far copying such matters 
as the Lay le Frain, etc. He was sent down here by 
some of the London booksellers in a half -starved state, 
but begins to pick up a little. ... I am just about to 
set out on a grand expedition of great importance to my 
comfort in this place. You must know that Mr. Plum- 


mer, my predecessor in this county, was a good anti- 
quary, and left a valuable collection of books, whicb he 
entailed with the estate, the first successors being three 
of his sisters, at least as old and musty as any Caxton or 
Wynkyn de Worde in his library. Now I must contrive 
to coax those watchful dragons to give me admittance into 
this garden of the Hesperides. I suppose they trouble 
the volumes as little as the dragon did the golden pippins ; 
but they may not be the more easily soothed on that 
account. However, I set out on my quest, like a pretax 
chevalier, taking care to leave Camp, for dirtying the 
carpet, and to carry the greyhounds with me, whose ap- 
pearance will indicate that hare-soup may be forthcoming 
in due season. By the way, did I tell you that Fitz- 
Camp is dead, and another on the stocks ? As our stupid 
postman might mistake Beged, address, as per date, 
Ashestiel, Selkirk, by Berwick." 

I believe the spinsters' of Sunderland Hall proved very 
generous dragons; and Scott lived to see them succeeded 
in the guardianship of Mr. Plummer's literary treasures 
by an amiable young gentleman of his own name and 
family. The half -starved amanuensis of this letter was 
Henry Weber, a laborious German, of whom we shall 
hear more hereafter. With regard to the pictorial em- 
bellishments contemplated for the first edition of The Lay 
of the Last Minstrel, I believe the artist in whose de- 
signs the poet took the greatest interest was Mr. Mas- 
querier, now of Brighton, with whom he corresponded at 
some length on the subject ; but his distance from that 
ingenious gentleman's residence was inconvenient, and 
the booksellers were probably impatient of delay, when 
the MS. was once known to be in the hands of the 

There is a circumstance which must already have struck 
such of my readers as knew the author in his latter days, 
namely, the readiness with which he seems to have com- 
municated this poem, in its progress, not only to his own 

402 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 33 

familiar friends, but to new and casual acquaintances. 
We shall find him following the same course with his 
Marmion — but not, I think, with any of his subsequent 
works. His determination to consult the movements of 
his own mind alone in the conduct of his pieces was 
probably taken before he began the Lay; and he soon 
resolved to trust for the detection of minor inaccuracies 
to two persons only — James Ballantyne and William 
Erskine. The printer was himself a man of considerable 
literary talents: his own style had the incurable faults 
of pomposity and affectation, but his eye for more venial 
errors in the writings of others was quick, and, though 
his personal address was apt to give a stranger the impres- 
sion of insincerity, he was in reality an honest man, and 
conveyed his mind on such matters with equal candor 
and delicacy during the whole of Scott's brilliant career. 
In the vast majority of instances he found his friend ac- 
quiesce at once in the propriety of his suggestions ; nay, 
there certainly were cases, though rare, in which his 
advice to alter things of much more consequence than a 
word or a rhyme was frankly tendered, and on delibera- 
tion adopted by Scott. Mr. Erskine was the referee 
whenever the poet hesitated about taking the hints of the 
zealous typographer; and his refined taste and gentle 
manners rendered his critical alliance highly valuable. 
With two such faithful friends within his reach, the 
author of the Lay might safely dispense with sending his 
MS. to be revised even by George EUis. 

Before he left Ashestiel for the winter session, the 
printing of the poem had made considerable progress. 
Ellis writes to him on the 10th November, complaining 
of bad health, and adds: "Tu quid agis? I suppose 
you are still an inhabitant of Eeged, and being there, it 
is impossible that your head should have been solely 
occupied by the ten thousand cares which you are likely 
to have in common with other mortals, or even by the 
Lay, which must have been long since completed, but 


must have started during the summer new projects suffi- 
cient to employ the lives of haK-a-dozen patriarchs. 
Pray tell me all about it, for as the present state of my 
frame precludes me from much activity, I want to enjoy 
that of my friends." Scott answers from 'Edinburgh: 
"I fear you fall too much into the sedentary habits inci- 
dent to a literary life, like my poor friend Plummer, who 
used to say that a walk from the parlor to the garden 
once a day was sufficient exercise for any rational being, 
and that no one but a fool or a fox -hunter would take 
more. I wish you could have had a seat on Hassan's 
tapestry, to have brought Mrs. Ellis and you soft and 
fair to Ashestiel, where, with farm mutton at 4 p. M., 
and goat's whey at 6 A. M., I think we could have re- 
established as much embonpoint as ought to satisfy a 
poetical antiquary. As for my country amusements, I 
have finished the Lay, with which and its accompanying 
notes the press now groans ; but I have started nothing 
except some scores of hares, many of which my gallant 
greyhounds brought to the ground." 

Ellis had also touched upon a literary feud then raging 
between Scott's allies of the Edinburgh Review, and the 
late Dr. Thomas Young, illustrious for inventive genius, 
displayed equally in physical science and in philological 
literature. A northern critic, whoever he was, had 
treated with merry contempt certain, discoveries in natu- 
ral philosophy and the mechanical arts, more especially 
that of the undulating theory of light, which ultimately 
conferred on Young's name one of its highest distinctions. 
"He had been for some time," says Ellis, "lecturer at 
the Royal Institution ; and having determined to publish 
his lectures, he had received from one of the booksellers 
the offer of ^61000 for the copyright. He was actually 
preparing for the press, when the bookseller came to him, 
and told him that the ridicule thrown by the Edinburgh 
Review on some papers of his in the Philosophical Trans- 
actions had so frightened the whole trade that he must 


request to be released from his bargain. This conse- 
quence, it is true, could not have been foreseen by the 
reviewer, who, however, appears to have written from 
feelings of private animosity; and I still continue to 
think, though I greatly admire the good taste of the liter- 
ary essays, and the perspicuity of the dissertations on 
political economy, that an apparent want of candor is too 
generally the character of a work which, from its inde- 
. pendence on the interests of booksellers, might have been 
expected to be particularly free from this defect." Scott 
rejoins, "I am sorry for the very pitiful catastrophe of 
Dr. Young's publication, because, although I am alto- 
gether unacquainted with the merits of the controversy, 
one must always regret so very serious a consequence of 
a diatribe. The truth is that these gentlemen reviewers 
ought often to read over the fable of the boys and frogs, 
and should also remember it is much more easy to destroy 
than to build, to criticise than to compose. While on 
this subject, I kiss the rod of my critic in the Edinburgh, 
on the subject of the price of Sir Tristrem; it was not my 
fault, however, that the public had it not cheap enough, 
as I declined taking any copy-money, or share in the 
profits ; and nothing, surely, was as reasonable a charge 
as I could make." 

On the 30th December he resumes: "The Lay is now 
ready, and will probably be in Longman and Hees's 
hands shortly after this comes to yours. I have charged 
them to send you a copy by the first conveyance, and 
shall be impatient to know whether you think the entire 
piece corresponds to that which you have already seen. 
I would also fain send a copy to Gifford, by way of intro- 
duction. My reason is that I understand he is about to 
publish an edition of Beaumont and Fletcher, and I think 
I could offer him the use of some miscellaneous notes, 
which I made long since on the margin of their works.* 

1 It was his Massinger that Gifford had at this time in hand. His Ben 
Jonson followed, and then his Ford. Some time later, he projected edi- 


Besides, I have a good esteem of Mr. GifEord as a manly 
English poet, very different from most of our modern 
versifiers. — We are so fond of Reged, that we are just 
going to set out for our farm in the middle of a snow- 
storm ; all that we have to comfort ourselves with is, that 
our march has been ordered with great military talent — 
a detachment of minced pies and brandy having preceded 
us. In case we are not buried in a snow-wreath, our 
stay wiU be but short. Should that event happen, we 
must wait the thaw." 

Ellis, not having as yet received the new poem, answers, 
on the 9th January, 1805, "I look daily and with the 
greatest anxiety for the Last Minstrel — of which I still 
hope to see a future edition decorated with designs a la 
Flaxman, as the Lays of Homer have already been. I 
think you told me that Sir Tristrem had not excited 
much sensation in Edinburgh. As I have not been in 
London this age, I can't produce the contrary testimony 
of our metropolis. But I can produce one person, and 
that one worth a considerable number, who speaks of it 
with rapture, and says, ' I am only sorry that Scott has 
not (and I am sure he has not) told us the whole of his 
creed on the subject of Tomas, and the other early Scotch 
Minstrels. I suppose he was afraid of the critics, and 
determined to say very little more than he was able to 
establish by incontestable proofs. I feel infinitely obliged 
to him for what he has told us, and I have no hesitation 
in saying that I consider Sir T. as by far the most inter- 
esting work that has as yet been published on the subject 
of our earliest poets, and, indeed, suCh a piece of literary 
antiquity as no one could have, a priori, supposed to 
exist.' This is Frere — our ex-ambassador for Spain, 
whom you would delight to know, and who would delight 

tions, both of Beaumont and Fletcher and of Shakespeare ; but, to the grieT- 
ous misfortune of literature, died without having completed either of them. 
We shall see presently what became of Scott's Notes on Beaumont and 

4o6 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 23 

to know you. It is remarkable that you were, I believe, 
the most ardent of all the admirers of bis old English 
version of the Saxon Ode;^ and he is, per contra, the 
warmest panegyrist of your Conclusion, which he can 
repeat by heart, and affirms to be the very best imitation 
of old English at present existing. I think I can trust 
you for having concluded the Last Minstrel with as much 
spirit as it was begun — if you have been capable of any- 
thing unworthy of your fame amidst the highest moun- 
tains of Eeged, there is an end of all inspiration." 

Scott answers, "Frere is so perfect a master of the 
ancient style of composition, that I would rather have 
his suffrage than that of a whole synod of your vulgar 
antiquaries. The more I think on our system of the 
origin of Eomance, the more simplicity and uniformity 
it seems to possess; and though I adopted it late and 
with hesitation, I believe I shall never see cause to aban- 
don it. Yet I am aware of the danger of attempting to 
prove, where proofs are but scanty, and probable suppo- 
sitions must be placed in lieu of them. I think the 
Welsh antiquaries have considerably injured their claims 
to confidence, by attempting to detail very remote events 
with all the accuracy belonging to the facts of yesterday. 
You will hear one of them describe you the cut of Lly- 
warch Hen's beard, or the whittle of Urien Reged, as 
if he had trimmed the one, or cut his cheese with the 
other. These high pretensions weaken greatly our belief 

1 " I have only met, in my researches into these matters," says Scott in 
1830, " Trith one poem, which, if it had been produced as ancient, could 
not have been detected on internal evidence. It is the War Song upon the 
Victory at Brunnanbargh, translated from the Anglo-Saxon into Anglo- 
Korman, by the Bight Hon. John Hookham Frere. See Ellis's Specimens 
of Ancient English Poetry, vol. i. p. 32. The accomplished editor tells us, 
that this very singular poem was intended as an imitation of the style and 
language of the fourteenth centnry, and was written during the controversy 
occasioned by the poems attributed to Rowley. Mr. Ellis adds, ' The 
reader will probably hear with some surprise, that this sing^ilar instance 
of critical ingenuity was the composition of an Eton schoolboy.'" — 
Essay on Imitations of the Ancient Ballad, p. 19. 


in the Welsh poems, which probably contain real trea- 
sures. 'T is a pity some sober-minded man will not take 
the trouble to sift the wheat from the chaff, and give us 
a good account of their MSS. and traditions. Pray, 
what is become of the Mabinogion? It is a proverb, 
that children and fools talk truth, and I am mistaken if 
even the same valuable quality may not sometimes be 
extracted out of the tales made to entertain both. I 
presume, while we talk of childish and foolish tales, that 
the Lay is already with you, although, in these points, 
Long-manum est errare. Pray inquire for your copy." 

In the first week of January, 1805, the Lay was pub- 
lished; and its success at once decided that literature 
should form the main business of Scott's lifet 

In his modest Introduction of 1830, he had himself 
told us all that he thought the world would ever desire 
to know of the origin and progress of this his first great 
original production. The present Memoir, however, has 
already included many minor particulars, for which I 
believe no student of literature will reproach the com- 
piler. I shall not mock the reader with many words as 
to the merits of a poem which has now kept its place for 
nearly a third of a century; but one or two additional 
remarks on the history of the composition may be par- 

It is curious to trace the small beginnings and gradual 
development of his design. The lovely Countess of Dal- 
keith hears a wild rude legend of Border diablerie, and 
sportively asks him to make it the subject of a ballad. 
He had been already laboring in the elucidation of the 
"quaint Inglis" ascribed to an ancient seer and bard of 
the same district, and perhaps completed his own sequel, 
intending the whole to be included in the third volume 
of the Minstrelsy. He assents to Lady Dalkeith's re- 
quest, and casts about for some new variety of diction 
and rhyme, which might be adopted without impropriety 
in a closing strain for the same collection. Sir John 

4o8 SIR WALTER SCOTT mr. 33 

Stoddart's casual recitation, a year or two before, of 
Coleridge's unpublished Christabel, had fixed the music 
of that noble fragment in his memory ; and it occurs to 
him, that by throwing the story of Gilpin Horner into 
somewhat of a similar cadence, he might produce such 
an echo of the later metrical romance, as would serve to 
connect his Conclusion of the primitive Sir Tristrem with 
his imitations of the common popular ballad in the Gray 
Brother and Eve of St. John. A single scene of feudal 
festivity in the hall of Branksome, disturbed by some 
pranks of a nondescript goblin, was probably all that he 
contemplated ; but his accidental confinement in the midst 
of a volunteer camp gave him leisure to meditate his 
theme to the sound of the bugle ; — and suddenly there 
flashes on him the idea of extending his simple outline, 
so as to embrace a vivid panorama of that old Border life 
of war and tumult, and all earnest passions, with which 
his researches on the Minstrelsy had by degrees fed his 
imagination, until every the minutest feature had been 
taken home and realized with unconscious intenseness of 
sympathy; so that he had won for himself in the past 
another world, hardly less complete or familiar than the 
present. Erskine or Cranstoun suggests that he would 
do well to divide the poem into cantos, and prefix to each 
of them a motto explanatory of the action, after the fash- 
ion of Spenser in the Faery Queen, He pauses for a 
moment — and the happiest conception of the framework 
of a picturesque narrative that ever occurred to any poet 
— one that Homer might have envied — the creation of 
the ancient harper, starts to life. By such steps did The 
Lay of the Last Minstrel grow out of the Minstrelsy of 
the Scottish Border. 

A word more of its felicitous machinery. It was at 
Bowhill that the Countess of Dalkeith requested a ballad 
on Gilpin Homer. The ruined castle of Newark closely 
adjoins that seat, and is now indeed included within its 
pleasance. Newark had been the chosen residence of the 


first Duchess of Buccleuch, and he accordingly shadows 
out his own beautiful friend in the person of her lord's 
ancestress, the last of the original stock of that great 
house; himself the favored inmate of BowhiU, introduced 
certainly to the familiarity of its circle in consequence 
of his devotion to the poetry of a bypast age, in that of 
an aged minstrel, "the last of all the race," seeking shel- 
ter at the gate of Newark, in days when many an adher- 
ent of the fallen cause of Stewart — his own bearded 
ancestor, who had fought at Killiecranhie, among the 
rest — owed their safety to her who 

" In pride of power, in beauty's bloom, 
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb." 

The arch allusions which run through all these Introduc- 
tions, without in the least interrupting the truth and grace- 
ful pathos of their main impression, seem to me exquisitely 
characteristic of Scott, whose delight and pride was to 
play with the genius which nevertheless mastered him at 
will. Eor, in truth, what is it that gives to aU his works 
their unique and marking charm, except the matchless 
effect which sudden effusions of the purest heart-blood of 
nature derive from their being poured out, to all appear- 
ance involuntarily, amidst diction and sentiment cast 
equally in the mould of the busy world, and the seemingly 
habitual desire to dwell on nothing but what might be 
likely to excite curiosity, without too much disturbing 
deeper feelings, in the saloons of polished life? Such 
outbursts come forth dramatically in all his writings ; but . 
in the interludes and passionate parentheses of The Lay 
of the Last Minstrel we have the poet's own inner soul 
and temperament laid bare and throbbing before us. 
Even here, indeed, he has a mask, and he trusts it — but 
fortunately it is a transparent one. 

Many minor personal allusions have been explained in 
the notes to the last edition of the Lay. It was hardly 
necessary even then to say that the choice of the hero 
had been dictated by the poet's affection for the living 


descendants of the Baron of Cranstoun ; and now ■ — none 

who have perused the preceding pages can doubt that he 

had dressed out his Margaret of Branksome in the form 

and features of his own first love. This poem may be 

considered as the "bright consummate flower" in which 

all the dearest dreams of his youthful fancy had at length 

found expansion for their strength, spirit, tenderness, 

and beauty. 

In the closing lines — 

" Hush'd is the harp — the Minstrel gone ; 
And did he wander forth alone ? 
Alone, in indigence and age, 
To linger ont his pilgrimage ? 
No ! — close beneath prond Newark's tower 
Arose the Minstrel's humble bower," etc. 

— in these charming lines he has embodied what was, 
at the time when he penned them, the chief day-dream 
of Ashestiel. From the moment that his uncle's death 
placed a considerable sum of ready money at his com- 
mand, he pleased himself, as we have seen, with the idea 
of buying a mountain farm, and becoming not only the 
"sheriff" (as he had in former days delighted to call 
himself), but "the Laird of the Cairn and the Scaur." 
While he was "laboring doucement at the Lay" (as 
in one of his letters he expresses it), during the recess of 
1804, circumstances rendered it next to certain that the 
small estate of Broadmeadows, situated just over against 
the ruins of Newark, on the northern bank of the Yar- 
row, would soon be exposed to sale; and many a time 
did he ride round it in company with Lord and Lady 

" When snmmer smiled on sweet Bowhill," 

surveying the beautiful little domain with wistful eyes, 
and anticipating that 

" There would he sing achierement high 
And circumstance of chivabT', 
Till the 'rapt trayeller would stay, 


Forgetful of the closing day ; 
And noble youths, the strain to hear, 
Forget the hunting of the deer ; 
And Tarrow, as he rolled along, 
Bear burden to the Minstrel's song," 

I consider it as, in one point of view, the greatest mis- 
fortune of his life that this vision was not realized; but 
the success of the poem itself changed "the spirit of his 
dream." The favor which it at once attained had not 
been equalled in the case of any one poem of consider- 
able length during at least two generations : it certainly 
had not been approached in the case of any narrative 
poem since the days of Dryden. Before it was sent to 
the press it had received warm commendation from the 
ablest and most influential critic of the time; but when 
Mr. Jeffrey's reviewal appeared, a month after publica- 
tion, laudatory as its language was, it scarcely came up 
to the opinion which had already taken root in the public 
mind. It, however, quite satisfied the author; and were 
I at liberty to insert some letters which passed between 
them in the course of the summer of 1805, it would be 
seen that their feelings towards each other were those of 
mutual confidence and gratitude. Indeed, a severe do- 
mestic affliction which about this time befeU Mr. Jeffrey 
called out the expression of such sentiments on both sides 
in a very touching manner.^ 

I abstain from transcribing the letters which conveyed 
to Scott the private opinions of persons themselves emi- 
nently distinguished in poetry; but I think it just to 
state that I have not discovered in any of them — no, 
not even in those of Wordsworth or Campbell — a strain 
of approbation higher on the whole than that of the chief 
professional reviewer of the period. When the happy 
days of youth are over, even the most genial and gener- 

^ [Catherine Wilson, Jeffrey's first wife, died August 8, 1805. A touch- 
ing letter, written August 19, from the bereaved husband, warmly thank- 
ing Scott for his kindness and sympathy, will be found in the Familiar 
Letters, vol. i. p. 30.] 

412 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 33 

ous of minds are seldom able to enter Into the strains of 
a new poet with that full and open delight which he 
awakens in the bosoms of the rising generation about 
him. Their deep and eager sympathies have already 
been drawn upon to an extent of which the prosaic part 
of the species can never have any conception ; and when 
the fit of creative inspiration has subsided, they are apt 
to be rather cold critics even of their own noblest appeals 
to the simple primary feelings of their kind. Miss Sew- 
ard's letter, on this occasion, has been since included in 
the printed collection of her correspondence; but perhaps 
the reader may form a sufficient notion of its tenoi' 
from the poet's answer — which, at all events, he will be 
amused to compare with the Introduction of 1830 : — 


EsnTBTiReH, 21st March, 1805. 

Mt dear Miss Seward, — I am truly happy that 
you found any amusement in The Lay of the Last Min- 
strel. It has great faults, of which no one can be more 
sensible than I am myself. Above all, it is deficient in 
that sort of continuity which a story ought to have, and 
which, were it to write again, I would endeavor to give 
it. But I began and wandered forward, like one in a 
pleasant country, getting to the top of one hill to see a 
prospect, and to the bottom of another to enjoy a shade ; 
and what wonder if my course has been devious and 
desultory, and many of my excursions altogether unpro- 
fitable to the advance of my journey ? The Dwarf Page 
is also an excrescence, and I plead guilty to all the cen- 
sures concerning him. The truth is, he has a history, 
and it is this : The story of Gilpin Horner was told by 
an old gentleman to Lady Dalkeith, and she, much di- 
verted with his actually believing so grotesque a tale, 
insisted that I should make it into a Border ballad. I 
don't know if ever you saw my lovely chieftainess — if 
you have, you must be aware that it is impossible for any 


one to refuse her request, as she has more of the angel 
in face and temper than any one alive ; so that if she had 
asked me to write a ballad on a broomstick, I must have 
attempted it. I began a few verses, to be called The 
Goblin Page ; and they lay long by me, till the applause 
of some friends whose judgment I valued induced me to 
resume the poem ; so on I wrote, knowing no more than 
the man in the moon how I was to end. At length the 
story appeared so uncouth, that I was fain to put it into 
the mouth of my old Minstrel — lest the nature of it 
should be misunderstood, and I should be suspected of 
setting up a new school of poetry, instead of a feeble 
attempt to imitate the old. In the process of the ro- 
mance, the page, intended to be a principal person in 
the work, contrived (from the baseness of his natural pro- 
pensities, I suppose) to slink downstairs into the kitchen, 
and now he must e'en abide there. 

I mention these circumstances to you, and to any one 
whose applause I value, because I am unwilling you 
should suspect me of trifling with the public in malice 
prepense. As to the herd of critics, it is impossible for 
me to pay much attention to them ; for, as they do not 
understand what I call poetry, we talk in a foreign lan- 
guage to each other. Indeed, many of these gentlemen 
appear to me to be a sort of tinkers, who, unable to 
make pots and pans, set up for menders of them, and, 
God knows, often make two holes in patching one. 
The sixth canto is altogether redundant; for the poem 
should certainly have closed with the union of the lovers, 
when the interest, if any, was at an end. But what could 
I do ? I had my book and my page still on my hands, 
and must get rid of them at all events. Manage them as 
I would, their catastrophe must have been insufficient to 
occupy an entire canto ; so I was fain to eke it out with 
the songs of the minstrels. I will now descend from the 
confessional, which I think I have occupied long enough 
for the patience of my fair confessor. I am happy you 

414 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 33 

are disposed to give me absolution, notwithstanding all 
my sins. 

We have a new poet come forth amongst us — James 
Grahame, author of a poem called The Sabbath, which I 
admire very much. If I can find an opportunity, I will 
send you a copy. Your affectionate humble servant, 

Walter Scott. 

Mr. Ellis does not seem to have written at any length 
on the subject of the Lay, until he had perused the arti- 
cle in the Edinburgh Eeview. He then says: "Though 
I had previously made up my mind, or rather perhaps 
because I had done so, I was very anxious to compare 
my sentiments with those of the Edinburgh critic, and I 
found that in general we were perfectly agreed, though 
there are parts of the subject which we consider from very 
different points of view. Frere, with whom I had not 
any previous communication about it, agrees with me; and 
trusting very much to the justice of his poetical feelings, 
I feel some degree of confidence in my own judgment 
— though in opposition to Mr. Jeffrey, whose criticism 
I admire, upon the whole, extremely, as being equally 
acute and impartial, and as exhibiting the fairest judg- 
ment respecting the work that could be formed by the 
mere assistance of good sense and general taste, without 
that particular sort of taste which arises from the study 
of romantic compositions. 

"What Frere and myself think, must be stated in the 
shape of a hypercriticism, — that is to say, of a review 
of the reviewer. We say that The Lay of the Last Min- 
strel is a work sui generis, written with the intention of 
exhibiting what our old romances do indeed exhibit in 
point of fact, but incidentally, and often without the wish, 
or rather contrary to the wish of the author; — namely, 
the manners of a particular age ; and that therefore, if it 
does this truly, and is at the same time capable of keep- 
ing the steady attention of the reader, it is so far perfect. 


This is also a poem, and ought therefore to contain a 
great deal of poetical merit. This indeed it does by the 
admission of the reviewer, and it must be admitted that 
he has shown much real taste in estimating the most 
beautiful passages; but he finds fault with many of the 
lines as careless, with some as prosaic, and contends that 
the story is not sufficiently full of incident, and that one 
of the incidents is borrowed from a merely local supersti- 
tion, etc, etc. To this we answer — 1st, That if the 
Lay were intended to give any idea of the Minstrel com- 
positions, it would have been a most glaring absurdity to 
have rendered the poetry as perfect and uniform as the 
works usually submitted to modern readers — and as in 
telling a story, nothing, or very little, would be lost, 
though the merely connecting part of the narrative were 
in plain prose, the reader is certainly no loser by the 
incorrectness of the smaller parts. Indeed, who is so 
unequal as Dryden? It may be said, that he was not 
intentionally so — but to be viery smooth is very often to 
be tame; and though this should be admitted to be a 
less important fault than inequality in a common modern 
poem, there can be no doubt with respect to the necessity 
of subjecting yourself to the latter fault (if it is one) in 
an imitation of an ancient model. 2d, Though it is 
naturally to be expected that many readers will expect 
an almost infinite accumulation of incidents in a romance, 
this is only because readers in general have acquired all 
their ideas on the subject from the prose romances, which 
commonly contained a farrago of metrical stories. The 
only thing essential to a romance was, that it should be 
believed by the hearers. Not only tournaments, but 
battles, are indeed accumulated in some of our ancient 
romances, because tradition had of course ascribed to 
every great conqueror a great number of conquests, and 
the minstrel would have been thought deficient, if, in a 
warlike age, he had omitted any military event. But in 
other respects a paucity of incident is the general char- 

41 6 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. ^2 

acteristic of our Minstrel poems. 8d, With respect to 
the Goblin Page, it is by no means necessary that the 
superstition on which this is founded should be univer- 
sally or even generally current. It is quite sufficient 
that it should exist somewhere in the neighborhood of 
the castle where the scene is placed ; and it cannot fairly 
be required, that because the goblin is mischievous, all 
his tricks should be directed to the production of general 
evil. The old idea of goblins seems to have been that 
they were essentially active, and careless about the mis- 
chief they produced, rather than providentially malicious. 
"We therefore (i. e., Frere and myself) dissent from 
all the reviewer's objections to these circumstances in the 
narrative; but we entertain some doubts about the pro- 
priety of dwelling so long on the Minstrel songs in the 
last canto. I say we doubt, because we are not aware of 
your having ancient authority for such a practice; but 
though the attempt was a bold one, inasmuch as it is not 
usual to add a whole canto to a story which is already fin- 
ished, we are far from wishing that you had left it un- 
attempted. I must tell you the answer of a philosopher 
(Sir Henry Englefield) to a friend of his who was criticis- 
ing the obscurity of the language used in the Minstrel. 
' I read little poetry, and often am in doubt whether I 
exactly understand the poet's meaning; but I found, 
after reading the Minstrel three times, that I understood it 
all perfectly.' ' Three times? ' replied his friend. ' Yes, 
certainly; the first time I discovered that there was a 
great deal of meaning in it; a second would have cleared 
it all up, but that I was run away with by the beautiful 
passages, which distracted my attention; the third time 
I skipped over these, and only attended to the scheme 
and structure of the poem, with which I am delighted.' 
At this conversation I was present, and though I could 
not help smiling at Sir Henry's mode of reading poetry, 
was pleased to see the degree of interest which he took 
in the narrative." 


Mr. Morritt informs me that he well remembers the 
dinner where this conversation occurred, and thinks Mr. 
Ellis has omitted in his report the best thing that Sir 
Harry Englefield said, in answer to one of the Dii 
Minorum Gentium, who made himself conspicuous by 
the severity of his censure on the verbal inaccuracies and 
careless lines of the Lay. "My dear sir," said the Bar- 
onet, "you remind me of a lecture on sculpture, which 
M. Falconet delivered at Bome, shortly after completing 
the model of his equestrian statue of Czar Peter, now at 
Petersburg. He took for his subject the celebrated horse 
of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitol, and pointed out as 
many faults in it as ever a jockey did in an animal he 
was about to purchase. But something came over him, 
vain as he was, when he was about to conclude the ha- 
rangue. He took a long pinch of snuff, and eyeing his 
own faultless model, exclaimed with a sigh, Cependant, 
Messieurs, il faut avouer que cette vilaine bete la est 
vivante, et que la mienne est morte!" 

To return to Ellis's letter, I fancy most of my readers 
will agree with me in thinking that Sir Henry Engle- 
field's method of reading and enjoying poetry was more 
to be envied than smiled at; and in doubting whether 
posterity will ever dispute about the '^^ propriety " of the 
Canto which includes the BaUad of Kosabelle, and the 
Kequiem of Melrose. The friendly hypercritics seem, I 
confess, to have judged the poem on principles not less 
pedantic, though of another kind of pedantry, than those 
which induced the critic to pronounce that its great pre- 
vailing blot originated in "those local partialities of the 
author," which had induced him to expect general inter- 
est and sympathy for such personages as his "Johnstones, 
Elliots, and Armstrongs." "Mr. Scott," said Jeffrey, 
"must either sacrifice his Border prejudices, or offend his 
readers in the other parts of the empire." It might have 
been answered by Ellis or Frere, that these Border clans 
figured after all on a scene at least as wide as the Troad; 

41 8 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 33 

and that their chiefs were not perhaps inferior, either in 
rank or power, to the majority of the Homeric kings; 
but even the most zealous of its admirers among the pro- 
fessed literators of the day would hardly have ventured 
to suspect that The Lay of the Last Minstrel might have 
no prejudices to encounter but their own. It was des- 
tined to charm not only the British empire, but the 
whole civilized world ; and had, in fact, exhibited a more 
Homeric genius than any regular epic since the days of 

"It would be great affectation," says the Introduction 
of 1830, "not to own that the author expected some suc- 
cess from The Lay of the Last Minstrel. The attempt to 
return to a more simple and natural poetry was likely to 
be welcomed, at a time when the public had become tired 
of heroic hexameters, with all the buckram and binding 
that belong to them in modern days. But whatever 
might have been his expectations, whether moderate or 
unreasonable, the result left them far behind ; for among 
those who smiled on the adventurous minstrel were num- 
bered the great names of William Pitt and Charles Fox. 
Neither was the extent of the sale inferior to the charac- 
ter of the judges who received the poem with approba- 
tion. Upwards of 30,000 copies were disposed of by the 
trade; and the author had to perform a task difficult to 
human vanity, when called upon to make the necessary 
deductions from his own merits, in a calm attempt to 
account for its popularity." 

Through what channel or in what terms Fox made 
known his opinion of the Lay, I have failed to ascertain. 
Pitt's praise, as expressed to his niece, Lady Hester 
Stanhope, within a few weeks after the poem appeared, 
was repeated by her to Mr. William Stewart Kose, who, 
of course, communicated it forthwith to the author; and 
not long after, the Minister, in conversation with Scott's 
early friend the Eight Hon. William Dundas, signified 
that it would give him pleasure to find some opportunity 


of advancing the fortunes of such a writer. "I remem- 
ber," writes this gentleman, "at Mr. Pitt's table in 1805, 
the Chancellor asked me about you and your then situa- 
tion, and after I had answered him, Mr. Pitt observed, 
' He can't remain as he is,' and desired me to ' look to 
it.' He then repeated some lines from the Lay, describ- 
ing the old harper's embarrassment when asked to play, 
and said, ' This is a sort of thing which I might have ex- 
pected in painting, but could never have fancied capable 
of being given in poetry. ' " ^ 

It is agreeable to know that this great statesman and 
accomplished scholar awoke at least once from his sup- 
posed apathy as to the elegant literature of his own time. 

The poet has under-estimated even the patent and tan- 
gible evidence of his success. The first edition of the 
Lay was a magnificent quarto, 750 copies ; but this was 
soon exhausted, and there followed an octavo impression 
of 1500; in 1806, two more, one of 2000 copies, another 
of 2250; in 1807, a fifth edition, of 2000, and a sixth, 
of 3000; in 1808, 3550; in 1809, 3000 — a small edition 
in quarto (the ballads and lyrical pieces being then an- 
nexed to it) — and another octavo edition of 8250 ; in 
1811, 3000; in 1812, 3000; in 1816, 8000; in 1828, 
1000. A fourteenth impression of 2000 foolscap ap- 
peared in 1825 ; and besides all this, before the end of 
1836, 11,000 copies had gone forth in the collected edi- 
tions of his poetical works. Thus, nearly forty-four thou- 
sand copies had been disposed of in this country, and by 
the legitimate trade alone, before he superintended the 
edition of 1830, to which his biographical introductions 
were prefixed. In the history of British Poetry nothing 
had ever equalled the demand for The Lay of the Last 

The publishers of the first edition were Longman and 
Co. of London, and Archibald Constable and Co. of 

1 Letter dated April 25, 1818, and indorsed by Scott, "William Dundas 
— a very kind letter." 

420 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 33 

Edinburgh; which last house, however, had but a small 
share in the adventure. The profits were to be divided 
equally between the author and his , publishers; and 
Scott's moiety was j£169 6s. Messrs. Longman, when 
a second edition was called for, offered j£500 for the 
copyright; this was accepted, but they afterwards, as the 
Litroduction says, "added ^100 in their own unsolicited 
kindness. It was handsomely given to supply the loss of 
a fine horse which broke down suddenly while the author 
was riding with one of the worthy publishers." This 
worthy publisher was Mr. Owen Bees, and the gallant 
steed, to whom a desperate leap in the coursing-field 
proved fatal, was, I believe. Captain, the immediate 
successor of Lenore, as Scott's charger in the volunteer 
cavalry; Captain was replaced by Lieutenant. The au- 
thor's whole share, then, in the profits of the Lay came 
to £769 6s. 

Mr. Bees's visit to Ashestiel occurred in the autumn. 
The success of the poem had already been decisive ; and 
fresh negotiations of more kinds than one were at this 
time in progress between Scott and various booksellers' 
houses, both of Edinburgh and London. 




Me. Ballanttnb, in his Memorandum, says, that 
very shortly after the publication of the Lay, he found 
himself obliged to apply to Mr. Scott for an advance of 
money; his own capital being inadequate for the busi- 
ness which had been accumulated on his press, in conse- 
quence of the reputation it had acquired for beauty and 
correctness of execution. Already, as we have seen, 
Ballantyne had received "a liberal loan; " — "and now," 
says he, "being compelled, maugre all delicacy, to renew 
my application, he candidly answered that he was not 
quite sure that it would be prudent for him to comply, 
but in order to evince his entire confidence in me, he was 
willing to make a suitable advance to be admitted as a 
third-sharer of my business." In truth, Scott now em- 
barked in Ballantyne 's concern almost the whole of the 
capital which he had a few months before designed to 

422 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 23 

invest in the purchase of Broadmeadows. Dis aliter 

I have, many pages back, hinted my suspicion that 
he had formed some distant notion of such an alliance, 
as early as the date of Ballantyne's projected removal 
from Kelso to Edinburgh; and his Introduction to the 
Lay, in 1830, appears to leave little doubt that the hope 
of ultimately succeeding at the Bar had waxed very faint, 
before the third volume of the Minstrelsy was brought 
out in 1803. When that hope ultimately vanished alto- 
gether, perhaps he himself would not have found it easy 
to tell. The most important of men's opinions, views, 
and projects, are sometimes taken up in so very gradual 
a manner, and after so many pauses of hesitation and of 
inward retractation, that they themselves are at a loss 
to trace in retrospect all the stages through which their 
minds have passed. We see plainly that Scott had never 
been fond of his profession, but that, conscious of his 
own persevering diligence, he ascribed his scanty success 
in it mainly to the prejudices of the Scotch solicitors 
against employing, in weighty causes at least, any bar- 
rister supposed to be strongly imbued with the love of 
literature; instancing the career of his friend Jeffrey as 
almost the solitary instance within his experience of such 
prejudices being entirely overcome. Had Scott, to his 
strong sense and dexterous ingenuity, his well-grounded 
knowledge of the jurisprudence of his country, and his 
admirable industry, added a brisk and ready talent for 
debate and declamation, I can have no doubt that his 
triumph over the prejudices alluded to would have beesn 
as complete as Mr. Jeffrey's; nor in truth do I much 
question that, had one really great and interesting case 
been submitted to his sole care and management, the 
result would have been to place his professional character 
for skill and judgment, and variety of resource, on so 
firm a basis, that even his rising celebrity as a man of 
letters could not have seriously disturbed it. Nay, I 


think it quite possible, that had he been entrusted with 
one such case after his reputation was established, and 
he had been compelled to do his abilities some mea- 
sure of justice in his own secret estimate, he might have 
displayed very considerable powers even as a forensic 
speaker. But no opportunities of this engaging kind 
having ever been presented to him — after he had per- 
sisted for more than ten years in sweeping the floor of 
the Parliament House, without meeting with any employ- 
ment but what would have suited the dullest drudge, and 
seen himself termly and yearly more and more distanced 
by contemporaries for whose general capacity he could 
have had little respect — while, at the same time, he al- 
ready felt his own position in the eyes of society at large 
to have been signally elevated in consequence of his extra- 
professional exertions — it is not wonderful that disgust 
should have gradually gained upon him, and that the 
sudden blaze and tumult of renown which surrounded the 
author of the Lay should have at last determined him to 
concentrate all his ambition on the pursuits which had 
alone brought him distinction. It ought to be men- 
tioned, that the business in George's Square, once exten- 
sive and lucrative, had dwindled away in the hands of 
his brother Thomas, whose varied and powerful talents 
were unfortunately combined with some tastes by no 
means favorable to the successful prosecution of his pru- 
dent father's vocation; so that very possibly even the 
humble employment of which, during his first years at 
the Bar, Scott had at least a sure and respectable allow- 
ance, was by this time much reduced. I have not his 
fee-books of later date than 1803: it is, however, my 
impression from the whole tenor of his conversation and 
correspondence, that after that period he had not only 
not advanced as a professional man, but had been retro- 
grading in nearly the same proportion that his literary 
reputation advanced. 

We have seen that, before he formed his contract with 

424 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 33 

Ballautyne, be was in possession of such a fixed income 
as might have satisfied all his desires, had he not found 
his family increasing rapidly about him. Even as that 
was, with nearly if not quite £1000 per annum, be 
might perhaps have retired not only from the Bar, but 
from Edinburgh, and settled entirely at Ashestiel or 
Broadmeadows, without encountering what any man of 
his station and habits ought to have considered as an 
imprudent risk. He had, however, no wish to cut him- 
self off from the busy and intelligent society to which he 
had been hitherto accustomed; and resolved not to leave 
the Bar until he should have at least used his best efforts 
for obtaining, in addition to his Shrievalty, one of those 
Clerkships of the Supreme Court at Edinburgh, which 
are usually considered as honorable retirements for advo- 
cates who, at a certain standing, finally give up all hopes 
of reaching the dignity of the Bench. "I determined,'' 
he says, "that literature should be my staff but not my 
crutch, and that the profits of my literary labor, however 
convenient otherwise, should not, if I could help it, be- 
come necessary to my ordinary expenses. Upon such a 
post an author might hope to retreat, without any per- 
ceptible alteration of circumstances, whenever the time 
should arrive that the public grew weary of his endeavors 
to please, or he himself should tire of the pen. I pos- 
sessed so many friends capable of assisting me in this 
object of ambition, that I could hardly overrate my own 
prospects of obtaining the preferment to which I limited 
my wishes ; and, in fact, I obtained, in no long period, 
the reversion of a situation which completely met them." * 
The first notice of this affair that occurs in his corre- 
spondence is in a note of Lord Dalkeith's, February the 
2d, 1805, in which his noble friend says, "My father 
desires me to tell you that he has had a communication 
with Lord Melville within these few days, and that he 
thinks your business is in a good train, though not cer- 
^ Introduction to 7^ Lay of the Last Minstrel — 1830. 


tain." I consider it as clear, then, that he began his 
negotiations concerning a seat at the clerk's table imme- 
diately after the Lay was published ^ and that their com- 
mencement had been resolved upon in the strictest con- 
nection with his embarkation in the printing concern of 
James Ballantyne and Company. Such matters are sel- 
dom speedily arranged ; but we shall find him in posses- 
sion of his object before twelve months had elapsed. 

Meanwhile, his design of quitting the Bar was divulged 
to none but those immediately necessary for the purposes 
of his negotiation with the Government; and the nature 
of his connection with the printing company remained, I 
believe, not only unknown, but for some years wholly 
unsuspected, by any of his daily companions except Mr. 

The forming of this commercial connection was one of 
the most important steps in Scott's life. He continued 
bound by it during twenty years, and its influence on his 
literary exertions and his worldly fortunes was productive 
of much good and not a little evil. Its effects were in 
truth so mixed and balanced during the vicissitudes of 
a long and vigorous career, that I at this moment doubt 
whether it ought, on the whole, to be considered with 
more of satisfaction or of regret. 

With what zeal he proceeded in advancing the views 
of the new copartnership, his correspondence bears ample 
evidence. The brilliant and captivating genius, now 
acknowledged universally, was soon discovered by the 
leading booksellers of the time to be united with such 
abundance of matured information in many departments, 
and, above all, with such indefatigable habits, as to mark 
him out for the most valuable workman they could en- 
gage for the furtherance of their schemes. He had, long 
before this, cast a shrewd and penetrating eye over the 
field of literary enterprise, and developed in his own 
mind the outlines of many extensive plans, which wanted 
nothing but the command of a sufficient body of able 

426 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^x. 33 

subalterns to be carried into execution with splendid 
success. Such of these as he grappled with in his own 
person were, with rare exceptions, carried to a trium- 
phant conclusion ; but the alliance with Ballantyne soon 
infected him with the proverbial rashness of mere mer- 
cantile adventure — while, at the same time, his generous 
feelings for other men of letters, and his characteristic 
propensity to overrate their talents, combined to hurry 
him and his friends into a multitude of arrangements, the 
results of which were often extremely embarrassing, and 
ultimately, in the aggregate, all but disastrous. It is an 
old saying, that wherever there is a secret there must be 
something wrong ; and dearly did he pay the penalty for 
the mystery in which he had chosen to involve this trans- 
action. It was his rule, from the beginning, that what- 
ever he wrote or edited must be printed at that press; 
and had he catered for it only as author and sole editor, 
all had been well; but had the booksellers known his 
direct pecuniary interest in keeping up and extending 
the occupation of those types, they would have taken into 
account his lively imagination and sanguine temperament, 
as well as his taste and judg;ment, and considered, far 
more deliberately than they too often did, his multifa- 
rious recommendations of new literary schemes, coupled 
though these were with some dim understanding that, if 
the Ballantyne press were employed, his own literary 
skill would be at his friend's disposal for the general 
superintendence of the undertaking. On the other hand, 
Scott's suggestions were, in many cases, perhaps in the 
majority of them, conveyed through Ballantyne, whose 
habitual deference to his opinion induced him to advo- 
cate them with enthusiastic zeal; and the printer, who 
had thus pledged his personal authority for the merits of 
the proposed scheme, must have felt himself committed 
to the bookseller, and could hardly refuse with decency 
to take a certain share of the pecuniary risk, by allowing 
the time and method of his own payment to be regulated 


according to the employfei?'s convenience. Hence, by 
degrees, was woven a web of entanglement from which 
neither Ballantyne nor his adviser had any means of es- 
cape, except only in that indomitable spirit, the main- 
spring of personal industry altogether unparalleled, to 
which, thus set in motion, the world owes its most gigan- 
tic monument of literary genius. 

The following is the first letter I have found of Scott 
to his PARTNER. The Mr. Foster mentioned in the be- 
ginning of it was a literary gentleman who had proposed 
to take on himself a considerable share in the annotation 
of some of the new editions then on the carpet — among 
others, one of Dryden. 


ASBEBTIEI., April 12, 1805. 

Dear Ballantyne, — I have duly received your two 
favors — also Foster's. He still howls about the expense 
of printing, but I think we shall finally settle. His 
argument is that you print too fine, alias too dear. I 
intend to stick to my answer, that I know nothing of the 
matter; but that settle it how you and he will, it must 
be printed by you, or can be no concern of mine. This 
gives you an advantage in driving the bargain. As to 
everything else, I think we shall do, and I will endeavor 
to set a few volumes agoing on the plan you propose. 

I have imagined a very superb work. What think 
you of a complete edition of British Poets, ancient and 
modern? Johnson's is imperfect and out of print; so is 
Bell's, which is a Lilliputian thing; and Anderson's, the 
most complete in point of ntmiber, is most contemptible 
in execution both of the editor and printer. There is a 
scheme for you! At least a hundred volumes, to be 
published at the rate of ten a year. I cannot, however, 
be ready till midsummer. If the booksellers will give 
me a decent allowance per volume, say thirty guineas, I 

428 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 33 

shall hold myself well paid on the writing hand. This is 
a dead secret. 

I think it quite right to let Doig^ have a share of 
Thomson; 2 but he is hard and slippery, so settle your 
bargain fast and firm — no loop-holes ! I am glad you 
have got some elbow-room at last. Cowan will come to, 
or we will find some fit place in time. If not, we must 
build — necessity has no law. I see nothing to hinder 
you from doing Tacitus with your correctness of eye, and 
I congratulate you on the fair prospect before us. When 
you have time, you will make out a list of the debts to be 
discharged at Whitsunday, that we may see what cash 
we shall have in bank. Our book-keeping may be very 
simple — an accurate cash-book and ledger is all that is 
necessary; and I think I know enough of the matter to 
assist at making the balance sheet. 

In short, with the assistance of a little cash I have no 
doubt things will go on a merveille. If you could take 
a little pleasuring, I wish you could come here and see 
us in all the glories of a Scottish spring. 

Yours truly, W. Scott. 

Scott opened forthwith his gigantic scheme of the 
British Poets to Constable, who entered into it with 
eagerness. They found presently that Messrs. Cadell 
and Davies, and some of the other London publishers, 
had a similar plan on foot, and after an unsuccessful 
negotiation with Mackintosh, were now actually treating 
with Campbell for the Biographical prefaces. Scott pro- 
posed that the Edinburgh and London houses should join 
in the adventure, and that the editorial task should be 
shared between himself and his brother poet. To this 
both Messrs. Cadell and Mr. Campbell warmly assented ; 
but the design ultimately fell to the ground, in conse- 
quence of the booksellers refusing to admit certain works 

' A bookseller in Edinbnrgli, 

^ A projected edition of the Works of the author of the Seasons. 

i8o5 VOLUNTEERS 429 

which both Scott and Campbell insisted upon. Such, 
and from analogous causes, has been the fate of various 
similar schemes both before and since. But the public 
had no trivial compensation upon the present occasion, 
since the failure of the original project led Mr. Campbell 
to prepare for the press those Specimens of English Poetry 
which he illustrated with sketches of biography and criti- 
cal essays, alike honorable to his learning and taste; 
while Scott, Mr. Foster ultimately standing off, took o;i 
himself the whole burden of a new edition, as well as 
biography, of Dryden. The body of booksellers mean- 
while combined in what they still called a general edi- 
tion of the English Poets, under the superintendence of 
one of their own Grub Street vassals, Mr. Alexander 

Precisely at the time when Scott's poetical ambition 
had been stimulated by the first outburst of universal 
applause, and when he was forming those engagements 
with BaUantyne which involved so large an accession of 
literary labors, as well as of pecuniary cares and respon- 
sibilities, a fresh impetus was given to the volunteer 
mania in Scotland, by the appointment of the late Earl 
of Moira (afterwards Marquis of Hastings) to the chief 
military command in that part of the empire. The Earl 
had married, the year before, a Scottish Peeress, the 
Countess of Loudon, and entered with great zeal into her 
sympathy with the patriotic enthusiasm of her country- 
men. Edinburgh was converted into a camp : independ- 
ently of a large garrison of regular troops, nearly 10,000 
fencibles and volunteers were almost constantly under 
arms. The lawyer wore his uniform under his gown; 
the shopkeeper measured out his wares in scarlet; in 
shqrt, the citizens of all classes made more use for sev- 
eral months of the military than of any other dress ; and 
the new commander-in-chief consulted equally his own 
gratification and theirs, by devising a succession of ma- 
noeuvres which presented a vivid image of the art of war 

430 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 23 

conducted on a large and scientific scale. In the sham 
battles and sham sieges of 1805, Craigmillar, Gilmerton, 
Braidhills, and other formidable positions in the neigh- 
borhood of Edinburgh, were the scenes of many a dash- 
ing assault and resolute defence; and occasionally the 
spirits of the mock combatants — English and Scotch, or 
Lowland and Highland — became so much excited that 
there was some difficulty in preventing the rough mock- 
ery of warfare from passing into its realities. The High- 
landers, in particular^ were very hard to be dealt with; 
and once, at least, Lord Moira was forced to alter at the 
eleventh hour his programme of battle, because a battal- 
ion of kilted fencibles could not or would not understand 
that it was their duty to be beat. Such days as these 
must have been more nobly spirit-stirring than even the 
best specimens of the fox-chase. To the end of his life, 
Scott delighted to recall the details of their counter- 
marches, ambuscades, charges, and pursuits, and in all 
of these his associates of the Light Horse agree that none 
figured more advantageously than himself. Yet these 
military interludes seem only to have whetted his appetite 
for closet work. Lideed, nothing but a complete publi- 
cation of his letters could give an adequate notion of the 
facility with which he already combined the conscientious 
magistrate, the martinet quartermaster, the speculative 
printer, and the ardent lover of literature for its own 
sake. A few specimens must suffice. 


EDiKBtTBGH, May 26, 1805. 

My dear Ellis, — Your silence has been so long 
and opinionative, that I am quite authorized, as a Border 
ballad-monger, to address you with a " Sleep you, or wake 
you?" What has become of the Romances? — which 
I have expected as anxiously as my neighbors around me 
have watched for the rain, which was to bring the grass, 
which was to feed the new-calved cows ; and to as little 


purpose, for both Heaven and you have obstinately de- 
layed your favors. After idling away the spring months 
at Ashestiel, I am just returned to idle away the summer 
here, and I have lately lighted upon rather an interesting 
article in your way. If you will turn to Barbour's Bruce 
(Pinkerton's edition, p. 66), you will find that the Lord 
of Lorn, seeing Bruce covering the retreat of his follow- 
ers, compares him to Gow MacMorn (Macpherson's Gaul 
the son of Morni). This similitude appears to Barbour 
a disparagement, and he says, the Lord of Lorn might 
more mannerly have compared the King to Gadefeir de 
Lawryss, who was with the mighty Duke Betys when he 
assailed the forayers in Gadderis, and who in the retreat 
did much execution among the pursuers, overthrowing 
Alexander and Thelomier and Danklin, although he was 
at length slain ; and here, says Barbour, the resemblance 
fails. Now, by one of those chances which favor the 
antiquary once in an age, a single copy of the romance 
alluded to has been discovered, containing the whole his- 
tory of this Gadefeir, who had hitherto been a stumbling- 
block to the critics. The book was printed by Arbuthnot, 
who flourished at Edinburgh in the seventeenth century. 
It is a metrical romance, called The Buik of the Most 
Noble and Vauliant Conquerour, Alexander the Grit. 
The first part is called the Foray of Gadderis, an incident 
supposed to have taken place while Alexander was besieg- 
ing Tyre; Gadefeir is one of the principal champions, 
and after exerting himself in the manner mentioned by 
Barbour, unhorsing the persons whom he named, he is at 
length slain by Emynedus, the Earl-Marshal of the 
Macedonian conqueror. The second part is called the 
Avowis of Alexandei;, because it introduces the oaths 
which he and others made to the peacock in the "chalmer 
of Venus," and gives an account of the mode in which 
they accomplished them. The third is the Great Battell 
of Effesoun, in which Porus makes a distinguished fig- 
ure. This you are to understand is not the Porus of 

432 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 23 

India, but one of his sons. The work is in decided Scotch, 
and adds something to our ancient poetry, being by no 
means despicable in point of composition. The author 
says he translated it from the Franch, or Romance, and 
that he accomplished his work in 1438-39. Barbour must 
therefore have quoted from the French Alexander, and 
perhaps his praises of the work excited the Scottish trans- 
lator. Will you tell me what you think of all this, and 
whether any transcripts will be of use to you? I am 
pleased with the accident of its casting up, and hope it 
may prove the forerunner of more discoveries in the dusty 
and ill-arranged libraries of our country gentlemen. 

I hope you continue to like the Lay. I have had a 
flattering assurance of Mr. Fox's approbation, mixed 
with a censure of my eulogy on the Viscount of Dundee. 
Although my Tory principles prevent my coinciding with 
his political opinions, I am very proud of his approbation 
in a literary sense. 

Charlotte joins me, etc., etc. W. S. 

In his answer Ellis says : — 

" Longman lately informed me that you have projected a Gen- 
eral Edition of our Poets. I expressed to him my anxiety that 
the booksellers, who certainly can ultimately sell what they 
please, should for once undertake something calculated to please 
intelligent readers, and that they should confine themselves to 
the selection of paper, types, etc. (which they possibly may 
imderstand), and by no means interfere with the literary part 
of the business, which, if popularity be the object, they must 
leave exclusively to you. I am talking, as you perceive, about 
your plan, without knowing its extent, or any of its details ; 
for these, therefore, I will wait — after confessing that, much 
as I wish for a corpus poetarum, edited as you would edit it, 
I should like still better another Minstrel Lay by the last and 
best Minstrel ; and the general demand for the poem seems to 
prove that the public are of my opinion. If, however, you don't 
feel disposed to take a second ride on Pegasus, why not under- 


take something far less infra dig. than a mere edition of our 
poets ? Why not undertake what Gibhon once undertook — 
an edition of our historians ? I have never been able to look 
at a volume of the Benedictine edition of the early French his- 
torians without envy." 

Mr. Ellis appears to have communicated all his notions 
on this subject to Messrs. Longman, for Scott writes to 
Ballantyne (Ashestiel, September 5), "I have had a visit 
from Kees yesterday. He is anxious about a corpus his- 
toriarum, or full edition of the Chronicles of England, 
an immense work. I proposed to him beginning with 
Holinshed, and I think the work will be secured for your 
press. I congratulate you on Clarendon, which, under 
Thomson's direction, will be a glorious publication." ^ 

The printing-office in the Canongate was by this time 
in very great request; and the letter I have been quoting 
contains evidence that the partners had already found it 
necessary to borrow fresh capital — on the personal secu- 
rity, it need not be added, of Scott himself. He says, 
"As I have fuU confidence in your applying the accom- 
modation received from Sir William Forbes in the most 
convenient and prudent manner, I have no hesitation to 
return the bonds subscribed as you desire. This will 
put you in cash for great matters." 

But to return. To Ellis himself he says : — 

"I have had booksellers here in the plural number. 
You have set little Rees's head agog about the Chroni- 
cles, which would be an admirable work, but should, I 
think, be edited by an Englishman who can have access 
to the MSS. of Oxford and Cambridge, as one cannot 
trust much to the correctness of printed copies. I will, 
however, consider the matter, so far as a decent edition 
of Holinshed is concerned, in case my time is not other- 
wise taken up. As for the British Poets, my plan was 
greatly too liberal to stand the least chance of being 

' An edition of Clarendon had been, it seems, contemplated by Scott's 
friend, Mr. Thomas Thomson. 

434 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 33 

adopted by the trade at large, as I wished them to begin 
with Chaucer. The fact is, I never expected they would 
agree to it. The Benedictines had an infinite advantage 
over us in that esprit de corps which led them to set 
labor and expense at defiance, when the honor of the 
order was at stake. Would to God your English Uni- 
versities, with their huge endowments and the number of 
learned men to whom they give competence and leisure, 
would but imitate the monks in their literaryplans ! My 
present employment is an edition of John Dryden's 
Works, which is already gone to press. As for riding 
on Pegasus, depend upon it, I will never again cross him 
in a serious way, unless I should by some strange acci- 
dent reside so long in the Highlands, and make myself 
master of their ancient manners, so as to paint them with 
some degree of accuracy in a kind of companion to the 
Minstrel Lay. ... I am interrupted by the arrival of 
two gentil bachelors, whom, like the Count of Artois, 
I must despatch upon some adventure till dinner time. 
Thank Heaven, that will not be diffictdt, for although 
there are neither dragons nor boars in the vicinity, and 
men above six feet are not only scarce, but pacific in 
their habits, yet we have a curious breed of wild-cats 
who have eaten all Charlotte's chickens, and against 
whom I have declared a war at outrance, in which the 
assistance of these gentes demoiseaux will be fully as 
valuable as that of Don Quixote to Pentalopin with the 
naked arm. So, if Mrs. EUis takes a fancy for cat-skin 
fur, now is the time." 

Already, then, he was seriously at work on Dryden. 
During the same summer, he drew up for the Edinburgh 
Review an admirable article on Todd's edition of Spen- 
ser; another on Godwin's Fleetwood; a third, on the 
Highland Society's Report concerning the Poems of 
Ossian; a fourth, on Johnes's Translation of Froissart; 
a fifth, on Colonel Thornton's Sporting Tour; and a 
sixth, on some cookery books — the two last being excel- 


lent specimens of his humor. He had, besides, a con- 
stant succession of minor cares in the superintendence of 
multifarious works passing through the Ballantyne press. 
But there is yet another important item to be included in 
the list of his literary labors of this period. The General 
Preface to his Novels informs us, that "about 1805 " he 
wrote the opening chapters of Waverley; and the second 
title, 'Tis Sixty Years Since, selected, as he says, "that 
the actual date of publication might correspond with the 
period in which the scene was laid," leaves no doubt that 
he had begun the work so early in 1805 as to contemplate 
publishing it before Christmas.^ He adds, in the same 
page, that he was induced, by the favorable reception of 
The Lady of the Lake, to think of giving some of his 
recollections of Highland scenery and customs in prose ; 
but this is only one instance of the inaccuracy as to mat- 
ters of date which pervades all those delightful Prefaces. 
The Lady of the Lake was not published until five years 
after the first chapters of Waverley were written; its 
success, therefore, could have had no share in suggesting 
the original design of a Highland novel, though no doubt 
it principally influenced him to take up that design after 
it had been long suspended, and almost forgotten. Thus 
early, then, had Scott meditated deeply such a portrai- 
ture of Highland manners as might "make a sort of com- 
panion" to that of the old Border life in the Minstrel 
Lay; and he had probably begun and suspended his 
Waverley, before he expressed to Ellis his feeling that 
he ought to reside for some considerable time in the 
country to be delineated, before seriously committing 
himself in the execution of such a task. 

"Having proceeded," he says, "as far as I think the 
seventh chapter, I showed my work to a critical friend, 
whose opinion was unfavorable; and having then some 

1 I have asceTtained, since this page was written, that » small part of 
the MS. of Waverley is on paper hearing the watermark of 1805 — the 
rest on paper of 1813. 

436 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 34 

poetical reputation, I was unwilling to risk the loss of it 
by attempting a new style of composition. I, therefore, 
then threw aside the work I had commenced, without 
either reluctance or remonstrance. I ought to add, that 
though my ingenuous friend's sentence was afterwards 
Teversed, on an appeal to the public, it cannot be consid- 
ered as any imputation on his good taste ; for the speci- 
men subjected to his criticism did not extend beyond the 
departure of the hero for Scotland, and consequently had 
not entered upon the part of the story which was finally 
found most interesting." A letter to be quoted under 
the year 1810 will, I believe, satisfy the reader that the 
first critic of the opening chapters of Waverley was Wil- 
liam Erskine. 

The following letter must have been written in the 
course of this autumn. It is in every respect a very in- 
teresting one ; but I introduce it here as illustrating the 
course of his reflections on Highland subjects in general, 
at the time when the first outlines both of The Lady of 
the Lake and Waverley must have been floating about 
in his mind : — 


ASHESTIBL [1805]. 

Mt deae Miss Sewaed, — You recall me to some 
very pleasant feelings of my boyhood, when you ask my 
opinion of Ossian. His works were first put into my 
hands by old Dr. Blacklock, a blind poet, of whom you 
may have heard; he was the worthiest and kindest of 
human beings, and particularly delighted in encouraging 
the pursuits, and opening the minds, of the young people 
by whom he was surrounded. I, though at the period of 
our intimacy a very young boy, was fortunate enough to 
attract his notice and kindness; and if I have been at all 
successful in the paths of literary pursuit, I am sure I 
owe much of that success to the books with which he 
supplied me, and his own instructions. Ossian and 

i8o5 OSSIAN 437 

Spenser were two books which the good old bard put into 
my hands, and which I devoured rather than perused. 
Their tales were for a long time so much my delight, 
that I could repeat without remorse whole Cantos of the 
one and Duans of the other; and woe to the unlucky 
wight who undertook to be my auditor, for in the height 
of my enthusiasm I was apt to disregard aU hints that 
my recitations became tedious. It was a natural conse- 
quence of progress in taste, that my fondness for these 
authors should experience some abatement. Ossian's 
poems, in particular, have more charms for youth than 
for a more advanced stage. The eternal repetition of 
the same ideas and imagery, however beautiful in them- 
selves, is apt to pall upon a reader whose taste has be- 
come somewhat fastidious; and, although I agree entirely 
with you that the question of their authenticity ought 
not to be confounded with that of their literary merit, 
yet skepticism on that head takes away their claim for 
indulgence as the productions of a barbarous and remote 
age; and, what is perhaps more natural, it destroys that 
feeling of reality which we should otherwise combine 
with our sentiments of admiration. As for the great 
dispute, I should be no Scottishman if I had not very 
attentively considered it at some period of my studies; 
and, indeed, I have gone some lengths in my researches, 
for I have beside me translations of some twenty or thirty 
of the unquestioned originals of Ossian's poems. After 
making every allowance for the disadvantages of a literal 
translation, and the possible debasement which those now 
collected may have suffered in the great and violent 
change which the Highlands have undergone since the 
researches of Macpherson, I am compelled to admit that 
incalculably the greater part of the English Ossian must 
be ascribed to Macpherson himself, and that his whole 
introductions, notes, etc., etc., are an absolute tissue of 

In all the ballads I ever saw or could hear of. Fin and 

438 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 34 

Ossin are described as natives of Ireland, although it is 
not unusual for the reciters sturdily to maintain that this 
is a corruption of the text. In point of merit, I do not 
think these Gaelic poems much better than those of the 
Scandinavian Scalds; they are very unequal, often very 
vigorous and pointed, often drivelling and crawling in 
the very extremity of tenuity. The manners of the he- 
roes are those of Celtic savages ; and I could point out 
twenty instances in which Macpherson has very cun- 
ningly adopted the beginning, the names, and the leading 
incidents, etc., of an old tale, and dressed it up with all 
those ornaments of sentiment and sentimental manners, 
which first excite our surprise, and afterwards our doubt 
of its authenticity. The Highlanders themselves, recog- 
nizing the leading features of tales they had heard in in- 
fancy, with here and there a tirade really taken from an 
old poem, were readily seduced into becoming champions 
for the authenticity of the poems. How many people, not 
particularly addicted to poetry, who may have heard Chevy 
Chase in th^e nursery or at school, and never since met 
with the ballad, might be imposed upon by a new Chevy 
Chase, bearing no resemblance to the old one, save in 
here and there a stanza or an incident? Besides, there 
is something in the severe judgment passed on my coun- 
trymen — "that if they do not prefer Scotland to truth, 
they will always prefer it to inquiry." When once the 
Highlanders had adopted the poems of Ossian as an arti- 
cle of national faith, you would far sooner have got them 
to disavow the Scripture than to abandon a line of the 
contested tales. Only they all allow that Macpherson's 
translation is very unfaithful, and some pretend to say 
inferior to the original ; by which they can only mean, 
if they mean anything, that they miss the charms of the 
rhythm and vernacular idiom, which pleases the Gaelic 
natives; for in the real attributes of poetry, Macpher- 
son's version is far superior to any I ever saw of the frag- 
ments which he seems to have used. 

i8o5 OSSIAN 439 

The Highland Society have lately set about investigat- 
ing, or rather, I should say, collecting materials to de- 
fend, the authenticity of Ossian. Those researches have 
only proved that there were no real originals — using 
that word as is commonly understood — to be found for 
them. The oldest tale they have found seems to be that 
of Darthula; but it is perfectly different, both in diction 
and story, from that of Macpherson. It is, however, a 
beautiful specimen of Celtic poetry, and shows that it 
contains much which is worthy of preservation. Indeed 
how should it be otherwise, when we know that, till about 
fifty years ago, the Highlands contained a race of heredi- 
tary poets ? Is it possible to think, that, among perhaps 
many hundreds, who for such a course of centuries have 
founded their reputation and rank on practising the art 
of poetry, in a country where the scenery and manners 
gave such effect and interest and imagery to their produc- 
tions, there should not have been some who attained ex- 
cellence ? In searching out those genuine records of the 
Celtic Muse, and preserving them from oblivion, with all 
the curious information which they must doubtless con- 
tain, I humbly think our Highland antiquaries would 
merit better of their country, than by confining their re- 
searches to the fantastic pursuit of a chimera. 

I am not to deny that Macpherson's inferiority in other 
compositions is a presumption that he did not actually 
compose these poems. But we are to consider his advan- 
tage when on his own ground. Macpherson was a High- 
lander, and had his imagination fired with the charms 
of Celtic poetry from his very infancy. We know, from 
constant experience, that most Highlanders, after they 
have become complete masters of English, continue to 
think in their own language ; and it is to me demonstrable 
that Macpherson thought almost every word of Ossian in 
Gaelic, although he wrote it down in English. The 
specimens of his early poetry which remain are also 
deeply tinged with the peculiarities of the Celtic diction 

440 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 34 

and character; so that, in fact, he might be considered 
as a Highland poet, even if he had not left us some Earse 
translations (or originals of Ossian) unquestionably writ- 
ten by himseK. These circumstances gave a great advan- 
tage to him in forming the style of Ossian, which, though 
exalted and modified according to Macpherson's own 
ideas of modem taste, is in great part cut upon the model 
of the tales of the Sennachies and Bards. In the trans- 
lation of Homer, he not only lost these advantages, but 
the . circumstances on which they were founded were a 
great detriment to his undertaking; for although such 
a dress was appropriate and becoming for Ossian, few 
people cared to see their old Grecian friend disguised in 
a tartan plaid and philibeg. In a word, the style which 
Macpherson had formed, however admirable in a High- 
land tale, was not calculated for translating Homer; and 
it was a great mistake in him, excited, however, by the 
general applause his first work received, to suppose that 
there was anything homogeneous betwixt his own ideas 
and those of Homer. Macpherson, in his way, was cer- 
tainly a man of high talents, and his poetic powers as 
honorable to his country, as the use which he made of 
them, and I fear his personal character in other respects, 
was a discredit to it. 

Thus I have given you with the utmost sincerity my 
creed on the great national question of Ossian; it has 
been formed after much deliberation and inquiry. I 
have had for some time thoughts of writing a Highland 
poem, somewhat in the style of the Lay, giving as far as 
I can a real picture of what that enthusiastic race ac- 
tually were before the destruction of their patriarchal 
government. It is true, I have not quite the same facili- 
ties as in describing Border manners, where I am, as 
they say, more at home. But to balance my comparative 
deficiency in knowledge of Celtic manners, you are to 
consider that I have from my youth delighted in all the 
Highland traditions which I could pick up from the old 

i8o5 MISS SEWARD 441 

Jacobites who used to frequent my father's house; and 
this will, I hope, make some amends for my having less 
immediate opportunities of research than in the Border 

Agreeably to your advice, I have actually read over 
Madoc a second time, and I confess have seen much 
beauty which escaped me in the first perusal. Yet (which 
yet, by the way, is almost as vile a monosyllable as buf) 
I cannot feel quite the interest I would wish to do. The 
difference of character which you notice, reminds me of 
what by Ben Jonson and other old comedians were called 
humors, which consisted rather in the personification of 
some individual passion or propensity, than of an actual 
individual man. Also, I cannot give up my objection, 
that what was strictly true of Columbus becomes an un- 
pleasant falsehood when told of some one else. Suppose 
I was to write a fictitious book of travels, I should cer- 
tainly do ill to copy exactly the incidents which befell 
Mungo Park or Bruce of Kinnaird. What was true of 
them would incontestably prove at once the falsehood and 
plagiarism of my supposed journal. It is not but what 
the incidents are natural — but it is their having already 
happened, which strikes us when they are transferred to 
imaginary persons. Could any one bear the story of a 
second city being taken by a wooden horse? 

Believe me, I shall not be within many miles of Lich- 
field without paying my personal respects to you; and 
yet I should not do it in prudence, because I am afraid 
you have formed a higher opinion of me than I deserve : 
you would expect to see a person who had dedicated him- 
self much to literary pursuits, and you would find me a 
rattle-skulled half -lawyer, half -sportsman, through whose 
head a regiment of horse has been exercising since he 
was five years old; half -educated — half -crazy, as his 
friends sometimes tell him; half everything, but entirely 
Miss Seward's much obliged, affectionate, and faithful 
servant, Walter Scott. 

442 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 34 

His correspondence shows how largely he was exerting 
himself all this while in the service of authors less fortu- 
nate than himself. James Hogg, among others, contin- 
ued to occupy from time to time his attention; and he 
assisted regularly and assiduously throughout this and 
the succeeding year Mr. Eobert Jameson, an industrious 
and intelligent antiquary, who had engaged in editing 
a collection of ancient popular ballads before the third 
volume of the Minstrelsy appeared, and who at length 
published his very curious work in 1807. Meantime, 
Ashestiel, in place of being less resorted to by literary 
strangers than Lasswade cottage had been, shared abun- 
dantly in the fresh attractions of the Lay, and "booksell- 
ers in the plural number" were preceded and followed 
by an endless variety of enthusiastic "gentil bachelors," 
whose main temptation from the south had been the hope 
of seeing the Borders in company with their Minstrel. 
He still writes of himself as "idling away his hours; " he 
had already learned to appear as if he were doing so to 
all who had no particular right to confidence respecting 
the details of his privacy. 

But the most agreeable of all his visitants were his 
own old familiar friends, and one of these has furnished 
me with a sketch of the autumn life of Ashestiel, of which 
I shall now avail myself. Scott's invitation was in these 
terms: — 


AsHEBTiEL, 18th Angnst, 1805. 
Dear Skene, — I have prepared another edition of 
the Lay, 1500 strong, moved thereunto by the faith, 
hope, and charity of the London booksellers. ... If 
you could, in the interim, find a moment to spend here, 
you know the way, and the ford is where it was ; which, 
by the way, is more than I expected after Saturday 
last, the most dreadful storm of thunder and lightning 
I ever witnessed. The lightning broke repeatedly in 

i8o5 ASHESTIEL 443 

our immediate vicinity, i. e., betwixt us and the Peel 
wood. Charlotte resolved to die in bed like a good 
Christian. The servants said it was the preface to the 
end of the world, and I was the only person that main- 
tained my character for stoicism, which I assure you had 
some merit, as I had no doubt that we were in real 
danger. It was accompanied with a flood so tremendous 
that I would have given five pounds you had been here 
to make a sketch of it. The little Glenkinnon brook was 
impassable for all the next day, and indeed I have been 
obliged to send all hands to repair the ford, which was 
converted into a deep pool. Believe me ever yours affec- 
tionately, W. S. 

Mr. Skene says : — 

" I well remember the ravages of the storm and flood described 
in this letter. The ford of Ashestiel was never a good one, and 
for some time after this it remained not a little perilous. He 
was himself the first to attempt the passage on his favorite 
black horse Captain, who had scarcely entered the river when 
he plunged beyond his depth, and had to swim to the other side 
with his burden. It requires a good horseman to swim a deep 
and rapid stream, but he trusted to the vigor of his steady 
trooper, and in spite of his lameness kept his seat manfully. A 
cart bringing a new kitchen range (as I believe the grate for 
that service is technically called) was shortly after upset in this 
ugly ford. The horse and cart were with difficulty got out, 
but the grate remained for some time in the middle of the 
stream to do duty as a horse-trap, and furnish subject for many 
a good joke when Mrs. Scott happened to complain of the im- 
perfection of her kitchen appointments." 

Mr. Skene soon discovered an important change which 
had recently been made in his friend's distribution of his 
time. Previously it had been his custom, whenever pro- 
fessional business or social engagements occupied the 
middle part of his day, to seize some hours for study 
after he was supposed to have retired to bed. His physi- 

444 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 34 

cian suggested that this was very likely to aggravate his 
nervous headaches, the only malady he was subject to 
in the prime of his manhood; and, contemplating with 
steady eye a course not only of unremitting but of in- 
creasing industry, he resolved to reverse his plan, and car- 
ried his purpose into execution with unflinching energy. 
In short, he had now adopted the habits in which, with very 
slender variation, he ever after persevered when in the 
country. He rose by five o'clock, lit his own fire when 
the season required one, and shaved and dressed with 
great deliberation — for he was a very martinet as to all 
but the mere coxcombries of the toilet, not abhorring 
effeminate dandyism itself so cordially as the slightest 
approach to personal slovenliness, or even those "bed- 
gown and slipper tricks," as he called them, in which 
literary men are so apt to indulge. Arrayed in his shoot- 
ing-jacket, or whatever dress he meant to use till dinner 
time, he was seated at his desk by six o'clock, all his 
papers arranged before him in the most accurate order, 
and his books of reference marshalled around him on the 
floor, while at least one favorite dog lay watching his eye, 
just beyond the line of circumvallation. Thus, by the 
time the family assembled for breakfast between nine 
and ten, he had done enough (in his own language) " to 
hreah the neck of the day^s worh." After breakfast, a 
couple of hours more were given to his solitary tasks, and 
by noon he was, as he used to say, "his own man." 
When the weather was bad, he would labor incessantly 
all the morning; but the general rule was to be out and 
on horseback by one o'clock at the latest ; while, if any 
more distant excursion had been proposed over night, he 
was ready to start on it by ten; his occasional rainy days 
of unintermitted study forming, as he said, a fund in his 
favor, out of which he was entitled to draw for accommo- 
dation whenever the sun shone with special brightness. 

It was another rule, that every letter he received 
should be answered that same day. Nothing else could 

i8o5 ASHESTIEL 445 

have enabled him to keep abreast with the flood of com- 
munications that in the sequel put his good-nature to 
the severest test — but already the demands on him in 
this way also vfrere numerous; and he included attention 
to them among the necessary business which must be 
despatched before he had a right to close his writing-box, 
or, as he phrased it, "to say, out damned spot, and be 
a gentleman." In turning over his, enormous mass of 
correspondence, I have almost invariably found some in- 
dication that, when a letter had remained more than a 
day or two unanswered, it had been so because he found 
occasion for inquiry or deliberate consideration. 

I ought not to omit, that in those days Scott was far 
too zealous a dragoon not to take a principal share in the 
stable duty. Before beginning his desk-work in the 
morning, he uniformly visited his favorite steed, and 
neither Captain nor Lieutenant, nor the Lieutenant's 
successor, Brown Adam (so called after one of the heroes 
of the Minstrelsy), liked to be fed except by him. The 
latter charger was indeed altogether intractable in other 
hands, though in his the most submissive of faithful 
allies. The moment he was bridled and saddled, it was 
the custom to open the stable door as a signal that his 
master expected him, when he immediately trotted to the 
side of the leaping -on-stone, of which Scott from his 
lameness found it convenient to make use, and stood 
there, silent and motionless as a rock, until he was fairly 
in his seat, after which he displayed his joy by neighing 
triumphantly through a brilliant succession of curvet- 
tings. Brown Adam never suffered himself to be backed 
but by his master. He broke, I believe, one groom's 
arm and another's leg in the rash attempt to tamper with 
his dignity. 

Camp was at this time the constant parlor dog. He 
was very handsome, very intelligent, and naturally very 
fierce, but gentle as a lamb among the children. As for 
the more locomotive Douglas and Percy, he kept one 

446 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 34 

window of his study open, whatever might be the state of 
the weather, that they might leap out and in as the fancy 
moved them. He always talked to Camp as if he under- 
stood what was said — and the animal certainly did un- 
derstand not a little of it; in particular, it seemed as if 
he perfectly comprehended on all occasions that his mas- 
ter considered him as a sensible and steady friend — the 
greyhounds as volatile young creatures whose freaks 
must be borne with. 

"Every day," says Mr. Skene, "we had some hours of 
coursing with the greyhounds, or riding at random over the 
hills, or of spearing salmon in the Tweed by sunUght : which 
last sport, moreover, we often renewed at night by the help of 
torches. This amusement of burning the water, as it is called, 
was not without some hazard ; for the large salmon generally 
lie in the pools, the depths of which it is not easy to estimate 
with precision by torchlight, — so that not unf requently, when 
the sportsman makes a determined thrust at a fish apparently 
within reach, his eye has grossly deceived him, and instead of 
the point of the weapon encountering the prey, he finds him- 
self launched with corresponding vehemence heels over head 
into the pool, both spear and salmon gone, the torch thrown out 
by the concussion of the boat, and quenched in the stream, 
while the boat itself has of course receded to some distance. I 
remember the first time I accompanied our friend, he went 
right over the gunwale in this manner, and had I not acciden- 
tally been close at his side, and made a successful grasp at the 
skirt of his jacket as he plunged overboard, he must at least 
have had an awkward dive for it. Such are the contingencies 
of hurning the water. The pleasures consist in being pene- 
trated with cold and wet, having your shins broken against the 
stones in the dark, and perhaps mastering one fish out of every 
twenty you take aim at." 

In all these amusements, but particularly in the hurn- 
ing of the water, Scott's most regular companion at this 
time was John, Lord Somerville, who united with many 
higher qualities a most enthusiastic love for such sports, 
and consummate address in the prosecution of them. 

i8o5 MR. SKENE 447 

This amiable nobleman then passed his autumns at his 
pretty seat of Alwyn, or the Pavilion, situated on the 
Tweed, some eight or nine miles below Ashestiel. They 
interchanged visits almost every week; and Scott did not 
fail to profit largely by his friend's matured and well- 
known skill in every department of the science of rural 
economy. He always talked of him, in particular, as his 
master in the art of planting. 

The laird of Eubislaw seldom faUed to spend a part 
of the summer and autumn at Ashestiel, as long as Scott 
remained there, and during these visits they often gave 
a wider scope to their expeditions. 

" Indeed," says Mr. Skene, " there are few scenes at all cele- 
brated either in the history, tradition, or romance of the Border 
counties, which we did not explore together in the course of our 
rambles. We traversed the, entire vales of the Yarrow and 
Ettrick, with all their sweet tributary glens, and never failed 
to find a hearty welcome from the farmers at whose houses we 
stopped, either for dinner or for the night. He was their chief 
magistrate, extremely popular in that official capacity ; and 
nothing could be more gratifying than the frank and hearty 
reception which everywhere greeted our arrival, however unex- 
pected. The exhilarating air of the mountains, and the healthy 
exercise of the day, secured our relishing homely fare, and we 
found inexhaustible entertainment in the varied display of char- 
acter which the affability of the Sheriff drew forth on all occa- 
sions in genuine breadth and purity. The beauty of the scenery 
gave full employment to my pencil, with the free and frequent 
exercise of which he never seemed to feel impatient. He was 
at all times ready and willing to alight when any object at- 
tracted my notice, and used to seat himself beside me on the 
brae, to con over some ballad appropriate to the occasion, or 
narrate the tradition of the glen — sometimes, perhaps, to note 
a passing idea in his pocket-book; but this was rare, for in 
general he relied with confidence on the great storehouse of his 
memory. And much amusement we had, as you may suppose, 
in talking over the different incidents, conversations, and traits 
of manners that had occurred at the last hospitable fireside 

448 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 34 

where we had mingled with the natives. Thus the minutes 
glided away until my sketch was complete, and then we mounted 
again with fresh alacrity. 

" These excursions derived an additional zest from the uncer- 
tainty that often attended the issue of our proceedings; for, 
following the game started by the dogs, our unfailing comrades, 
we frequently got entangled and bewildered among the hills, 
until we had to trust to mere chance for the lodging of the 
night. Adventures of this sort were quite to his taste, and the 
more for the perplexities which on such occasions befell our at- 
tendant squires, — mine a lanky Savoyard, his a portly Scotch 
butler — both of them uncommonly bad horsemen, and both 
equally sensitive about their personal dignity, which the rugged- 
ness of the ground often made it a matter of some difficulty for 
either of them to maintain, but more especially for my poor 
foreigner, whose seat resembled that of a pair of compasses 
astride. Scott's heavy lumbering beauffetier had provided 
himself against the mountain showers with a huge cloak, which, 
when the cavalcade were at gallop, streamed at full stretch from 
his shoulders, and kept flapping in the other's face, who, having 
more than enough to do in preserving his own equilibrium, 
could not think of attempting at any time to control the pace 
of his steed, and had no relief but fuming and pesting at the 
sacr6 manteau, in language happily unintelligible to its wearer. 
Now and then some ditch or turf-fence rendered it indispensa- 
ble to adventure on a leap, and no farce could have been more 
amusing than the display of politeness which then occurred be- 
tween these worthy equestrians, each courteously declining in 
favor of his friend the honor of the first experiment, the horses 
fretting impatient beneath them, and the dogs clamoring en- 
couragement. The horses generally terminated the dispute by 
renouncing allegiance, and springing forward without waiting 
the pleasure of the riders, who had to settle the matter with 
their saddles as they best could. 

" One of our earliest expeditions was to visit the wild scenery 
of the mountainous tract above Moffat, including the cascade 
of the Grey Mare's Tail, and the dark tarn called Loch Skene. 
In our ascent to the lake we got completely bewildered in the 
thick fog which generally envelopes the rugged features of that 
lonely regfion ; and, as we were groping through the maze of 

i8o5 MR. SKENE 449 

bogs, the ground gave way, and down went horse and horsemen 
pell-mell into a slough of peaty mud and black water, out of 
which, entangled as we were with our plaids and floundering 
nags, it was no easy matter to get extricated. Indeed, unless 
we had prudently left our gallant steeds at a farmhouse below, 
and borrowed hiU ponies for the occasion, the result might have 
been worse than laughable. As it was, we rose like the spirits 
of the bog, covered cap-a-pie with slime, to free themselves 
from which, our wily ponies took to roUing about on the 
heather, and we had nothing for it but following their example. 
At length, as we approached the gloomy loch, a huge eagle 
heaved himself from the margin and rose right over us, scream- 
ing his scorn of the intruders ; and altogether it would be im- 
possible to picture anything more desolately savage than the 
scene which opened, as if raised by enchantment on purpose to 
gratify the poet's eye ; thick folds of fog rolling incessantly 
over the face of the inky waters, but rent asunder now in one 
direction, and then in another — so as to afford us a glimpse of 
some projecting rock or naked point of land, or island bearing 
a few scraggy stumps of pine — and then closing again in uni- 
versal darkness upon the cheerless waste. Much of the scenery 
of Old Mortality was drawn from that day's ride. 

" It was also in the course of this excursion that we encoun- 
tered that amusing personage introduced into Guy Mannering 
as ' Tod Gabbie,' though the appellation by which he was 
known in the neighborhood was ' Tod WUlie.' He was one of 
those itinerants who gain a subsistence among the moorland 
farmers by relieving them of foxes, polecats, and the like depre- 
dators — a half-witted, stuttering, and most original creature. 

" Having explored all the wonders of Moffatdale, we turned 
ourselves towards Blockhouse Tower, to visit Scott's worthy 
acquaintances the Laidlaws, and reached it after a long and 
intricate ride, having been again led off our course by the grey- 
hounds, who had been seduced by a strange dog that joined 
company, to engage in full pursuit upon the track of what we 
presumed to be either a fox or a roe-deer. The chase was pro- 
tracted and perplexing, from the mist that skirted the hiUtops ; 
but at length we reached the scene of slaughter, and were much 
distressed to find that a stately old he-goat had been the victim. 
He seemed to have fought a stout battle for his life, but now 

450 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 34 

lay mangled in the midst of his panting enemies, who betrayed, 
on our approach, strong consciousness of delinquency and ap- 
prehension of the lash, which was administered accordingly to 
soothe the manes of the luckless Capricorn — though, after all, 
the dogs were not so much to blame in mistaking his game 
flavor, since the fogs must have kept him out of view till the 
last moment. Our visit to Blackhonse was highly interesting ; 
— the excellent old tenant being still in life, and the whole 
family group presenting a perfect picture of innocent and sim- 
ple happiness, while the animated, intelligent, and original con- 
versation of our friend William was quite charming. 

" Sir Adam Ferguson and the Ettrick Shepherd were of the 
party that explored Loch Skene and hunted the unfortunate 

" I need not tell you that Saint Mary's Loch, and the Loch of 
the Lowes, were among the most favorite scenes of our excur- 
sions, as his fondness for them continued to his last days, and 
we have both visited them many times together in his company. 
I may say the same of the Teviot and the Aill, Borthwick- 
water, and the lonely towers of Buccleuch and Harden, Minto, 
Roxburgh, Gilnockie, etc. I think it was either in 1805 or 
1806 that I first explored the Borthwick with him, when on our 
way to pass a week at Langholm with Lord and Lady Dalkeith, 
upon which occasion the otter-hunt, so well described in Guy 
Mannering, was got up by our noble host ; and I can never for- 
get the delight with which Scott observed the enthusiasm of the 
high-spirited yeomen, who had assembled in multitudes to par- 
take the sport of their dear young chief, well mounted, and dash- 
ing about from rock to rock with a reckless ardor which recalled 
the alacrity of their forefathers in following the Buccleuchs of 
former days through adventures of a more serious order. 

" Whatever the banks of the Tweed, from its source to its ter- 
mination, presented of interest, we frequently visited ; and I do 
verily believe there is not a single ford in the whole course of 
that river which we have not traversed together. He had an 
amaziag fondness for fords, and was not a little adventurous in 
plunging through, whatever might be the state of the flood, and 
this even though there happened to be a bridge in view. If it 
seemed possible to scramble through, he scorned to go ten yards 
about, and in fact preferred the ford ; and it is to be remarked 

i8o5 CUMBERLAND 451 

that most of the heroes of his tales seem to have been endued 
with similar propensities — even the White Lady of Avenel 
delights in the ford. He sometimes even attempted them on 
foot, though his lameness interfered considerably with his pro- 
gress among the slippery stones. Upon one occasion of this 
sort I was assisting him through the Ettrick, and we had both 
got upon the same tottering stone in the middle of the stream, 
when some story about a kelpie occurring to him, he must needs 
stop and tell it with aU his usual vivacity — and then laughing 
heartily at his own joke, he slipped his foot, or the stone shuf- 
fled beneath him, and down he went headlong into the pool, 
pulling me after him. We escaped, however, with no worse 
than a thorough drenching and the loss of his stick, which 
floated down the river, and he was as ready as ever for a similar 
exploit before his clothes were half dried upon his back." 

About this time Mr. and Mrs. Scott made a short ex- 
cursion to the lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland, 
and visited some of their finest scenery, in company with 
Mr. Wordsworth. I have found no written narrative of 
this little tour, but I have often heard Scott speak with 
enthusiastic delight of the reception he met with in the 
humble cottage which his brother poet then inhabited on 
the banks of Grasmere ; and at least one of the days they 
spent together was destined to furnish a theme for the 
verse of each, namely, that which they gave to the ascent 
of Helvellyn, where, in the course of the preceding 
spring, a young gentleman having lost his way and per- 
ished by falling over a precipice, his remains were dis- 
covered, three months afterwards, still watched by "a 
faithful terrier-bitch, his constant attendant during fre- 
quent rambles among the wilds." ^ This day they were 

1 See notice prefixed to the song — 

"I climbed the dark brow of the mighty Helvellyn," etc., 
in Scott's Poetical Works, vol. vi. p. 370 [Camb. Ed. p. 37] ; and compare 
the lines — 

" Inmate of a mountain dwelling, 
Thou hast clomb aloft, and gazed 
From the watch-towers of Helvellyn, 
Awed, delighted, and amazed," etc. 

Wordsworth's Poetical Works, vol. iii. p. 96. 

452 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 34 

accompanied by an illustrious philosopher, who was also 
a true poet — and might have been one of the greatest of 
poets had he chosen ; and I have heard Mr. Wordsworth 
say that it would be difficidt to express the feelings with 
which he, who so often had climbed Helvellyn alone, 
found himself standing on its summit with two such men 
as Scott and Davy. 

After leaving Mr. Wordsworth, Scott carried his wife 
to spend a few days at Gilsland, among the scenes where 
they had first met; and his reception by the company at 
the wells was such as to make him look back with some- 
thing of regret, as well as of satisfaction, to the change 
that had occurred in his circumstances since 1797. They 
were, however, enjoying themselves much there, when he 
received intelligence which induced him to believe that a 
French force was about to land in Scotland : the alarm 
indeed had spread far and wide; and a mighty gathering 
of volunteers, horse and foot, from the Lothians and the 
Border country, took place in consequence at Dalkeith. 
He was not slow to obey the summons. He had luckily 
chosen to accompany on horseback the carriage in which 
Mrs. Scott travelled. His good steed carried him to the 
spot of rendezvous, full a hundred miles from Gilsland, 
within twenty-four hours; and on reaching it, though, 
no doubt to his disappointment, the alarm had already 
blown over, he was delighted with the general enthusiasm 
that had thus been put to the test — and, above all, by 
the rapidity with which the yeomen of Ettrick Forest had 
poured down from their glens, under the guidance of his 
good friend and neighbor, Mr. Pringle of Torwoodlee. 
These fine fellows were quartered along with the Edin- 
burgh troop when he reached Dalkeith and Musselburgh; 
and after some sham battling, and a few evenings of 
high jollity, had ci^owned the needless muster of the bea- 
con fires, ^ he immediately turned his horse again towards 
the south, and rejoined Mrs. Scott at Carlisle. 

^ See note " Alaim of Invasion," Antiquary, chap. xIt. 


By the way, it was during his fiery ride from Gilsland 
to Dalkeith, on the occasion above mentioned, that he 
composed his Bard's Incantation, first published six years 
afterwards in the Edinburgh Annual Eegister : — 

" The forest of Glenmore is drear, 

It is all of black pine and the dark oak tree,'' etc., 

and the verses bear the full stamp of the feelings of the 

Shortly after he was reestablished at Ashestiel, he was 
visited there by Mr. Southey ; this being, I believe, their 
first meeting. It is alluded to in the following letter 
— a letter highly characteristic in more respects than 
one: — 


AsHESTiEii, 17th October, 1805. 

Dear Ellis, — More than a month has glided away 
in this busy solitude, and yet I have never sat down to 
answer your kind letter. I have only to plead a horror 
of pen and ink with which this country, in fine weather 
(and ours has been most beautiful), regularly affects me. 
In recompense, I ride, walk, fish, course, eat and drink, 
with might and main, from morning to night. I could 
have wished sincerely you had come to Reged this year 
to partake her rural amusements ; — the only comfort I 
have is, that your visit would have been over, and now 
I look forward to it as to a pleasure to come. I shall be 
infinitely obliged to you for your advice and assistance 
in the course of Dryden. I fear little can be procured 
for a Life beyond what Malone has compiled, but cer- 
tainly his facts may be rather better told and arranged. 
I am at present busy with the dramatic department. 
This undertaking will make my being in London in spring 
a matter of absolute necessity. 

And now let me tell you of a discovery which I have 
made, or rather which Robert Jameson has made, in 
copying the MS. of True Thomas and the Queen of Elf- 

454 SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 34 

land, in the Lincoln Cathedral. The queen, at part- 
ing, bestows the gifts of harping and carping upon the 
prophet, and mark his reply : — 

" To harp and carp, Tomas, -where so ever ye gen — 
Thomas, take thou these with thee." — 

" Harping," he said, " ken I nane, 
For .Tong is chef e of myustrelsie." 

If poor Eitson could contradict his own system of mate- 
rialism by rising from the grave to peep into this MS., 
he would slink back again in dudgeon and dismay. 
There certainly cannot be more respectable testimony 
than that of True Thomas, and you see he describes the 
tongue, or recitation, as the principal, or at least the 
most dignified, part of a minstrel's profession. 

Another curiosity was brought here a few days ago by 
Mr. Southey, the poet, who f avorfed me with a visit on his 
way to Edinburgh. It was a MS. containing sundry 
metrical romances, and other poetical compositions, in the 
northern dialect, apparently written about the middle of 
the fifteenth century. I had not time to make an analysis 
of its contents, but some of them seem highly valualble. 
There is a tale of Sir Gowther, said to be a Breton Lay, 
which partly resembles the history of Robert the Devil, 
the hero being begot in the same way; and partly that of 
Robert of Sicily, the penance imposed on Sir Gowther 
being the same, as he kept table with the hounds, and 
was discovered by a dumb lady to be the stranger knight 
who had assisted her father the emperor in his wars. 
There is also a MS. of Sir Isanbras; item a poem called 
Sir Amadas — not Amadis of Gaul, but a courteous 
knight, who, being reduced to poverty, travels to conceal 
his distress, and gives the wreck of his fortune to pur- 
chase the rites of burial for a deceased knight, who had 
been refused them by the obduracy of his creditors. The 
rest of the story is the same with that of Jean de Calais, 
in the Bibliotheque Bleue, and with a vulgar ballad 
called the Factor's Garland. Moreover there is a merry 


tale of hunting a bare, as performed by a set of country 
clowns, witb tbeir mastiffs, and curs witb "short legs 
and never a tail." The disgraces and blunders of these 
ignorant sportsmen must have afforded infinite mirth at the 
table of a feudal baron, prizing himself on his knowledge 
of the mysteries of the chase performed by these unauthor- 
ized intruders. There is also a burlesque sermon, which 
informs us of Peter and Adam journeying together to 
Babylon, and how Peter asked Adam a full great doubt- 
ful question, saying, "Adam, Adam, why didst thou eat 
the apple unpared ? " This book belongs to a lady. I 
would have given something valuable to have had a week 
of it. Southey commissioned me to say that he intended 
to take extracts from it, and should be happy to copy, or 
cause to be copied, any part that you might wish to be 
possessed of; an offer which I heartily recommend to 
your early consideration. — Where dwelleth Heber the 
magnificent, whose library and cellar ^ are so superior to 
aU others in the world? I wish to write to him about 
Dryden. Any word lately from Jamaica? 

Yours truly, W. S. 

Mr. Ellis, in his answer, says : — 

Heber will, I dare say, be of service to you in your present 
undertaking, if indeed you want any assistance, which I very 
much doubt ; because it appears to me that the best edition 
which could now be given of Dryden would be one which 
should unite accuracy of text and a handsome appearance with 
good critical notes. Quoad Malone, — I should think Eitson 
himself, could he rise from the dead, would be puzzled to sift 
out a single additional anecdote of the poet's life ; but to abridge 
Malone — and to render his narrative terse, elegant, and in- 
telligible — would be a great obligation conferred on the pur- 
chasers (I will not say the readers, because I have doubts 
whether they exist in the plural number) of his very laborious 

1 Ellis had mentioned, in a recent letter, Heber's buying winea to the 
value of illOO at some sale he happened to attend this autumn. 

456 SIR WALTER SCOTT ^t. 34 

compilation. The late Dr. Warton, you may have heard, had 
a project of editing Dryden h la Hurd ; that is to say, upon the 
same principle as the castrated edition of Cowley. His reason 
was, that Dryden, having written for bread, became of necessity 
a most voluminous author, and poured forth more nonsense of 
indecency, particularly in his theatrical compositions, than al- 
most any scribbler in that scribbling age. Hence, although his 
transcendent genius frequently breaks out, and marks the hand 
of the master, his comedies seem, by a tacit but general consent, 
to have been condemned to oblivion ; and his tragedies, being 
printed in such bad company, have shared the same fate. But 
Dr. W. conceived that, by a judicious selection of these, together 
with his fables and prose works, it would be possible to exhibit 
him in a much more advantageous light than by a republication 
of the whole mass of his writings. Whether the Doctor (who, 
by the way, was by no means scrupulously chaste and delicate, 
as you will be aware from his edition of Pope) had taken a just 
view of the subject, you know better than I ; but I must own 
that the announcement of a general edition of Dryden gave me 
some little alarm. However, if you can suggest the sort of 
assistance you are desirous of receiving, I shall be happy to do 
what I can to promote your views. . . . And so you are not 
disposed to nibble at the bait I throw out ! Nothing but " a 
decent edition of Holinshed " ? I confess that my project chiefly 
related to the later historical works respecting this country — 
to the union of Gall, Twisden, Camden, Leibnitz, etc., etc., 
leaving the Chronicles, properly so called, to shift for them- 
selves. ... I am ignorant when you are to be in Edinburgh 
and in that ignorance have not desired Blackburn, who is nov 
at Glasgow, to call on you. He has the best practical under 
standing I have ever met with, and I vouch that you would b< 
much pleased with his acquaintance. And so for the preseni 
God bless you. G. E. 

Scott's letter in reply opens thus : — 

I will not castrate John Dryden. I would as sooi 
castrate my own father, as I believe Jupiter did of yore 
"What would you say to any man who would castrati 

i8o5 DRYDEN 457 

Shakespeare, or Massinger, or Beaumont and Fletcher? 
I don't say but that it may be very proper to select cor- 
rect passages for the use of boarding-schools and colleges, 
being sensible no improper ideas can be suggested in 
these seminaries, unless they are intruded or smuggled 
under the beards and ruffs of our old dramatists. But 
in making an edition of a man of genius's works for 
libraries and collections, and such I conceive a complete 
edition of Dryden to be, I must give my author as I find 
him, and will not tear out the page, even to get rid of 
the blot, little as I like it. Are not the pages of Swift, 
and even of Pope, larded with indecency, and often of the 
most disgusting kind, and do we not see them upon all 
shelves and dressing-tables, and in all boudoirs? Is not 
Prior the most indecent of tale-tellers, not even except- 
ing La Fontaine, and how often do we see his works in 
female hands? In fact, it is not passages of ludicrous 
indelicacy that corrupt the manners of a people — it is 
the sonnets which a prurient genius like Master Little 
sings virginibus puerisque — it is the sentimental slang, 
half lewd, half methodistic, that debauches the under- 
standing, inflames the sleeping passions, and prepares 
the reader to give way as soon as a tempter appears. At 
the same time, I am not at all happy when I peruse some 
of Dryden's comedies: they are very stupid, as well as 
indelicate; sometimes, however, there is a considerable 
vein of liveliness and humor, and all of them present 
extraordinary pictures of the age in which he lived. My 
critical notes will not be very numerous, but I hope to 
illustrate the political poems, as Absalom and Achitophel, 
The Hind and Panther, etc., with some curious annota- 
tions. I have already made a complete search among 
some hundred pamphlets of that pamphlet-writing age, and 
with considerable success, as I have found several which 
throw light on my author. I am told that I am to be 
formidably opposed by Mr. Crowe, the Professor of 
Poetry at Oxford, who is also threatening an edition of 


Dryden. I don't know whether to he most vexed that 
some one had not undertaken the task sooner, or that 
Mr. Crowe is disposed to attempt it at the same time 
with me; — however, I now stand committed, and will 
not be crowed over, Lf I can help it. The third edition 
of the Lay is now in the press, of which I hope you will 
accept a copy, as it contains some trifling improvements 
or additions. They are, however, very trifling. 

I have written a long letter to Bees, recommending an 
edition of our historians, both Latin and English; but 
I have great hesitation whether to undertake much of it 
myself. What I can, I certainly will do; but I should 
feel particularly delighted if you would join forces with 
me, when I think we might do the business to purpose. 
Do, Lord love you, think of this grande opus. 

I have not been so fortunate as to hear of Mr. Black- 
burn. I am afraid poor Daniel has been very idly 
employed — Codum nan animum. I am glad you still 
retain the purpose of visiting Eeged. If you live on 
mutton and game, we can feast you ; for, as one wittily 
said, I am not the hare with many friends, but the friend 
with many hares. W. S. 

Mr. Ellis, in his next letter, says : — 

" I will not disturb you by contesting any part of your in- 
genious apology for your intended complete edition of Dryden, 
whose genius I venerate as much as you do, and whose negli- 
gences, as he was not rich enough to doom them to oblivion in 
his own lifetime, it is^ perhaps incumbent on his editor to trans- 
mit to the latest posterity. Most certainly I am not so squeam- 
ish as to quarrel with him for his immodesty on any moral pre- 
tence. Licentiousness in writing, when accompanied by wit, 
as in the case of Prior, La Fontaine, etc., is never likely to ex- 
cite any passion, because every passion is serious ; and the 
grave epistle of Eloisa is more likely to do moral mischief, and 
convey infection to love-sick damsels, than five hundred stories 
of Hans Carvel and Paulo Purgante ; but whatever is in point 

i8o5 DRYDEN 459 

of expression vulgar — whatever disgusts the taste — whatever 
might have been written by any fool, and is therefore unworthy 
of Dryden — whatever might have been suppressed, without 
exciting a moment's regret in the mind of any of his admirers 
— ought, in my opinion, to be suppressed by any editor who 
should be disposed to make an appeal to the public taste upon 
the subject ; because a man who was perhaps the best poet and 
best prose writer in the language — but it is foolish to say so 
much, after promising to say nothing. Indeed I own myself 
guilty of possessing aU his works in a very indifferent edition, 
and I shall certainly purchase a better one whenever you put 
it in my power. With regard to your competitors, I feel per- 
fectly at my ease, because I am convinced that though you 
shoidd generously furnish them with all the materials, they 
would not know how to use them : non cuivis hominum con- 
to write critical notes that any one will read." 

Alluding to the regret which Scott had expressed some 
time before at the shortness of his visit to the libraries 
of Oxford, Ellis says, in another of these letters : — 

" A library is like a butcher's shop : it contains plenty of 
meat, but it is all rawj no person living (Leyden's breakfast 
was oidy a tour deforce to astonish Ritson, and I except the 
Abyssinians, whom I never saw) can find a meal in it, till some 
good cook (suppose yourself) comes in and says, ' Sir, I see 
by your looks that you are hungry ; I know your taste — be 
patient for a moment, and you shall be satisfied that you have 
an excellent appetite.' " 

I shall not transcribe the mass of letters which Scott 
received from various other literary friends whose assist- 
ance he invoked in the preparation of his edition of Dry- 
den; but among them there occurs one so admirable, 
that I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of introducing 
it, more especially as the views which it opens harmonize 
as remarkably with some, as they differ from others, of 
those which Scott himself ultimately expressed respecting 
the poetical character of his illustrious author : — 

46o SIR WALTER SCOTT jet. 34 

Pattbbdalb, NoTember 7, 1805. 

Mt deab Scott, — ... I was much pleased to hear of your 
engagement with Dryden : not that he is, as a poet, any great 
favorite of mine : I admire his talents and genius highly, — 
but his is not a poetical genius. The only qualities I can find 
in Dryden that are essentially poetical, are a certain ardor and 
impetuosity of mind, with an excellent ear. It may seem 
strange that I do not add to this, great command of language : 
That he certainly has, and of such language, too, as it is most 
desirable that a poet should possess, or rather that he should 
not be without. But it is not language that is, in the highest 
sense of the word, poetical, being neither of the imagination 
nor of the passions ; I mean the amiable, the ennobling, or the 
intense passions. I do not mean to say that there is nothing 
of this in Dryden, but as little, I think, as is possible, consider- 
ing how much he has written. You wiU easily understand my ■ 
meaning, when I refer to his versification of Falamon and 
Arcite, as contrasted with the language of Cha.ucer. Dryden 
had neither a tender heart nor a lofty sense of moral dignity. 
Whenever his language is poetically impassioned, it is mostly 
upon unpleasing subjects, such as the follies, vices, and crimes 
of classes of men or of individuals. That his cannot be the 
language of imagination, must have necessarily followed from 
this, — that there is not a single image from nature in the whole 
body of his works ; and in his translation from Virgil, wherever 
Virgil can be fairly said to have his eye upon his object, Dry- 
den always spoUs the passage. 

But too much of this. I am glad that you are to be his 
editor. His political and satirical pieces may be greatly bene- 
fited by illustration, and even absolutely require it. A correct 
text is the first object of an editor ; then such notes as explain 
difficult or obscure passages; and lastly, which is much less 
important, notes pointing out authors to whom the poet has 
been indebted, — not in the fiddling way of phrase here and 
phrase there (which is detestable as a general practice), — but 
where he has had essential obligations either as to matter or 

If I can be of any use to you, do not fail to apply to me. 
One thing I may take the liberty to suggest, which is, when 
you come to the fables, might it not be advisable to print the 

i8o5 DRYDEN 461 

wliole of the tales of Boccace in a smaller type in the original 
language ? If this should look too much like swelling a book, 
I should certainly make such extracts as would show where 
Dryden has most strikingly improved upon, or fallen below, his 
original. I think his translations from Boccace are the best, 
at least the most poetical, of his poems. It is many years since 
I saw Boccace, but I remember that Sigismunda is not married 
by him to Guiscard — (the names are different in Boccace in 
both tales, I believe — certainly in Theodore, etc.) I think 
Dryden has much injured the story by the marriage, and de- 
graded Sigismunda's character by it. He has also, to the best 
of my remembrance, degraded her still more by making her 
love absolute sensuality and appetite ; Dryden had no other 
notion of the passion. With aU these defects, and they are 
very gross ones, it is a noble poem. Guiscard's answer, when 
first reproached by Tancred, is noble in Boccace — nothing but 
this : Amor pub molto piu che tie voi ne io possiamo. This, 
Dryden has spoiled. He says first very well, " The faults of 
love by love are justified," and then come four lines of miserable 
rant, quite h la Maximin. Farewell, and believe me ever your 
affectionate friend, 

William Wordsworth. 




While the first volumes of his Dryden were passing 
through the press, the affair concerning the Clerkship 
of the Court of Session, opened nine or ten months be- 
fore, had not been neglected by the friends on whose 
counsel and assistance Scott had relied. In one of his 
Prefaces of 1830, he briefly tells the issue of this negoti- 
ation, which he justly describes as "an important circum- 
stance in his life, of a nature to relieve him from the 
anxiety which he must otherwise have felt as one upon 
the precarious tenure of whose own life rested the princi- 
pal prospects of .his family, and especially as one who 
had necessarily some dependence on the proverbially ca- 
pricious favor of the public." "Whether Mr. Pitt's hint 
to Mr. William Dundas, that he would willingly find an 
opportunity to promote the interests of the author of the 
Lay, or some conversation between the Duke of Buc- 
cleuch and Lord Melville, first encouraged him to this 
direction of his views, I am not able to state distinctly ; 
but I believe that the desire to see his fortunes placed on 
some more substantial basis was at this time partaken 
pretty equally by the three persons who had the princi- 


pal influence in the distribution o£ the Crown patronage 
in Scotland; and as his object was rather to secure a 
future than an immediate increase of official income, it 
was comparatively easy to make such an arrangement as 
would satisfy his ambition. George Home of Wedder- 
burn, in Berwickshire, a gentleman of considerable liter- 
ary acquirements, and an old friend of Scott's family, 
had now served as Clerk of Session for upwards of thirty 
years. In those days there was no system of retiring 
pensions for the worn-out functionary of this class, and 
the usual method was, either that he should resign in 
favor of a successor who advanced a sum of money ac- 
cording to the circumstances of his age and health, or for 
a coadjutor to be associated with him in his patent, who 
undertook the duty on condition of a division of salary. 
Scott offered to relieve Mr. Home of all the labors of 
his office, and to allow him, nevertheless, to retain its 
emoluments entire during his lifetime; and the aged 
clerk of course joined his exertions to procure a conjoint- 
patent on these very advantageous terms. Mr. Home 
resigned, and a new patent was drawn out accordingly; 
but, by a clerical inadvertency, it was drawn out solely 
in Scott's favor, no mention of Mr. Home being inserted 
in the instrument. Although, therefore, the sign-manual 
had been affixed, and there remained nothing but to pay 
the fees and take out the commission, Scott, on discover- 
ing this error, could not of course proceed in the busi- 
ness ; since, in the event of his dying before Mr. Home, 
that gentleman would have lost the vested interest which 
he had stipulated to retain. A pending charge of pecu- 
niary corruption had compelled Lord Melville to retire 
from office some time before Mr. Pitt's death; and the 
cloud of popular obloquy, under which he now kbored, 
rendered it impossible that Scott should expect assistance 
from the quarter to which, under any other circum- 
stances, he would natuj-ally have turned for extrication 
from this difficulty. He therefore, as soon as the Fox 


and Grenville Cabinet had been nominated, proceeded to 
London, to make in his own person such representations 
as might be necessary to secure the issuing of the patent 
in the right shape. 

It seems wonderful that he should ever have doubted 
for a single moment of the result; since, had the new 
Cabinet been purely Whig, and had he been the most 
violent and obnoxious of Tory partisans, neither of which 
was the case, the arrangement had been not only vir- 
tually, but, with the exception of an evident official 
blunder, formally completed; and no Secretary of State, 
as I must think, could have refused to rectify the paltry 
mistake in question, without a dereliction of every prin- 
ciple of honor. The seals of the Home Office had been 
placed in the hands of a nobleman of the highest charac- 
ter — moreover, an ardent lover of literature; — while 
the chief of the new Ministry was one of the most gener- 
ous as well as tasteful of mankind; and accordingly, 
when the circumstances were explained, there occurred 
no hesitation whatever on their parts. "I had," says 
Scott, "the honor of an interview with Earl Spencer, 
and he in the most handsome manner gave directions 
that the commission should issue as originally intended; 
adding that, the matter having received the royal assent, 
he regarded only as a claim of justice what he would 
willingly have done as an act of favor." He adds: "I 
never saw Mr. Fox on this or any other occasion, and 
never made any application to him, conceiving, that in 
doing so, I might have been supposed to express political 
opinions different from those which I had always pro- 
fessed. In his private capacity, there is no man to whom 
I would have been more proud to owe an obligation — 
had I been so distinguished." ^ 

In January, 1806, however, Scott had by no means 
measured either the character, the feelings, or the ar- 
rangements of great public functionaries, by the standard 
' Introdnction to Marmion — 1830. 


with which observation and experience subsequently fur- 
nished him. He had breathed hitherto, as far as politi- 
cal questions of all sorts were concerned, the hot atmo- 
sphere of a very narrow scene — and seems to have 
pictured to himself Whitehall and Downing Street as 
only a wider stage for the exhibition of the bitter and 
fanatical prejudices that tormented the petty circles of 
the Parliament House at Edinburgh; the true bearing 
and scope of which no man in after-days more thoroughly 
understood, or more sincerely pitied. The variation of 
his feelings, while his business still remained undeter- 
mined, will, however, be best collected from the corre- 
spondence about to be quoted. It was, moreover, when 
these letters were written, that he was tasting for the 
first time the full cup of fashionable blandishment as a 
London Lion; nor will the reader fail to observe how 
deeply, while he supposed his own most important worldly 
interests to be in peril on the one hand, and was sur- 
rounded with so many captivating flatteries on the other, 
he continued to sympathize with the misfortunes of his 
early friend and patron, now hurled from power, and 
subjected to a series of degrading persecutions, from the 
consequences of which that lofty spirit was never entirely 
to recover. 


Edinbdboh, January 25, 1806. 
Mt dear Ellis, — I have been too long in letting 
you hear of me, and my present letter is going to be a 
very selfish one, since it will be chiefly occupied by ah 
affair of my own, in which, probably, you may find very 
little entertainment. I rely, however, upon your cordial 
good wishes and good advice, though, perhaps, you may 
be unable to afford me any direct assistance without more 
trouble than I would wish you to take on my account. 
You must know, then, that with a view of withdrawing 
entirely from the Bar, I had entered into a transaction 

466 SIR WALTER SCOTT mt. 34 

with an elderly and infirm gentleman, Mr. George Home, 
to be associated with Mm in the office which he holds as 
one of the Principal Clerks to our Supreme Court of 
Session ; I being to discharge the duty gratuitously dur- 
ing his life, and to succeed him at his decease. This 
could only be carried into effect by a new commission 
from the Crown to him and me jointly, which has been 
issued in similar cases very lately, and is in point of form 
quite correct. By the interest of my kind and noble 
friend and chief, the Duke of Buccleuch, the countenance 
of Government was obtained to this arrangement, and 
the affair, as I have every reason to believe, is now in 
the Treasury. I have written to my solicitor, Alexander 
Mundell, Fludyer Street, to use every despatch in hurry- 
ing through the commission; but the news of to-day 
giving us every reason to apprehend Pitt's death, if that 
lamentable event has not already happened,^ makes me 
get nervous on a subject so interesting to my little for- 
tune. My political sentiments have been always consti- 
tutional and open, and although they were never rancor- 
ous, yet I cannot expect that the Scottish Opposition 
party, should circumstances bring them into power, would 
consider me as an object of favor : nor would I ask it at 
their hands. Their leaders cannot regard me with male- 
volence, for I am intimate with many of them ; — but 
they must provide for the "Whiggish children before they 
throw their bread to the Tory dogs; and I shall not fawn 
on them because they have in their turn the superintend- 
ence of the larder. At the same time, if Fox's friends 
come into power, it must be with Windham's party, to 
whom my politics can be no exception, — if the politics 
of a private individual ought at any time to be made the 
excuse for intercepting the bounty of his Sovereign, when 
it is in the very course of being bestowed. 

The situation is most desirable, being £800 a year, 
besides being consistent with holding my sheriffdom; 
1 Mr. Pitt died Jannaiy 23, two days before this letter was written. 


and I could afford very well to wait till it opened to me 
by the death of my colleague, without wishing a most 
worthy and respectable man to die a moment sooner than 
ripe nature demanded. The duty consists in a few hours' 
labor in the forenoons when the Court sits, leaving the 
evenings and whole vacation open for literary pursuits. 
I will not relinquish the hope of such an establishment 
without an effort, if it is possible without dereliction of 
my principles to attain the accomplishment of it. As I 
have suffered in my professional line by addicting myself 
to the profane and unprofitable art of poem-making, I 
am very desirous to indemnify myself by availing myself 
of any prepossession which my literary reputation may, 
however unmeritedly, have created in my favor. I have 
found it useful when I applied for others, and I see no 
reason why I should not try if it can do anything for 

Perhaps, after all, my commission may be got out be- 
fore a change of Ministry, if such an event shall take 
place, as it seems not far distant. If it is ot